Tuesday, November 30, 2010
If I were an astronaut, I would eat a million steaks. Big, thick, juicy steaks with lots of ketchup and steak sauce, and a big pile of delicious tater tots, and three vegetables--probably spinach, English peas, and asparagus. I'd want a big, big salad too, drenched in Thousand Island dressing, because with a million steaks you'd need an enormous amount of salad. When asked how I wanted my million steaks cooked, I'd say "Well done...DUMBASS!" And that's what I would do if I were an astronaut.
I know this without even thinking about it because I've been asked that question a lot over the years and I eventually got tired of stammering, "Uhh, I'd, uhh...well, I'd uhh..." so I finally sat down and figured out exactly what I'd do if I were an astronaut so that I could reel off the answer immediately, with supreme confidence. This has helped my social life immeasurably and made me the toast of sophisticated parties all over town. Now people make it a point to ask me what I would do if I were an astronaut, and my "I would eat a million steaks" speech has become legendary among the denizens of high society.
The one drawback to this, of course, is that I run the risk of becoming predictable. So every once in a while, when someone asks me the "astronaut question", I pull the old dipsy-doodle on 'em and respond with something totally unexpected. Just last week, the mayor and his wife invited me to a fancy dinner party in honor of some important fatass from out of town, and during the lobster entree Mrs. Mayor coyly inquired, "Err, porfle--pray tell--what would you do if you were an astronaut?"
Everyone leaned forward expectantly, waiting to be instantly gratified by my celebrated "I would eat a million steaks" response. Instead, I answered the question by stating: "If I were an astronaut, I would blast off in rocket ships and go on missions in outer space. I would wear a spacesuit and float around in zero gravity. Why, I might even go to the moon! And I would eat pasty astronaut food from little squirty tubes."
Shocked, Mrs. Mayor looked around in embarrassment at the buzzing assemblage and then pressed me further. "What, err, what else would you do?" she asked. "That is, what else would you...you know...eat?"
"Oh!" I said, feigning a sudden realization that my "million steaks" speech was being set up. Mrs. Mayor breathed a sigh of relief and sat back to hear it at last. Instead, I picked up the lobster I was eating and held it up. "I would also eat one of these." I handed it to her and then asked her to pass it around so everyone else could see it. She did so, reluctantly, and then trembled with dismay as the lobster made its way around the table. The guests regarded it as though it were an aborted cow fetus. When it got to the important fatass from out of town, he flatly refused to handle it, so the lady who was now stuck with it began to weep openly.
Mrs. Mayor tried one last time to rescue the occasion from total disaster. "Are you...absolutely sure...that if you were an astronaut...you wouldn't...perhaps...eat anything else?" A freakish grin of insane, desperate hope contorted her face.
"Such as?" I asked casually, munching on a sliver of carrot and waving it around.
"Wouldn't you..." she gasped, almost croaking, "...wouldn't you...eat...a million steaks?"
Silence filled the room. Everyone sat stock-still, their bodies tensed like coils. I held up my index finger. A billionaire railroad tycoon from Philadelphia grasped his chest with a hideous groan and fell out of his chair. Nobody noticed. I drew a breath. The lady holding my lobster fell face-first into her plate with a clattering thud. I opened my mouth to speak. The air crackled with so much static electricity that everyone's hair stood on end as though they were all wearing fright wigs.
"Eat...a million steaks?" I repeated with a chuckle of smug derision. "A MILLION steaks? How monumentally absurd, ha-ha. Why, it would be both impossible and utterly ridiculous." With a thinly-disguised snort, I glanced sideways at Mrs. Mayor and rolled my eyes. She suddenly fell backward in her chair with a tremendous crash, her feet sticking straight up over the edge of the table. The mayor didn't move--he'd already lapsed into a catatonic state several minutes earlier.
"Oh, yes," I said brightly, as though I'd just had a sudden afterthought. "I would also eat a million aborted cow fetuses. In a rich, clotted cream gravy."
With this, everyone else at the table suddenly erupted, the tension finally too much for them to endure. They vomited convulsively for what seemed like several minutes, some hurling their liquified lobster dinners up to ten feet or more. Soon the air was filled with crisscrossing streams of flying vomit which splashed all over the people sitting opposite each other. A smartly-dressed waiter emerged from the kitchen with a silver platter of after-dinner apertifs, turned on his heel, and disappeared back into the kitchen.
I rose from my chair and walked slowly through the hail of vomit, a glazed look in my eyes. The front door opened for me and I wandered out into the night as once-gay party streamers drifted starkly in the chilling wind. I could still hear Mama's warning voice echoing in my mind: "They're all gonna LAUGH at you!" But I showed them. I showed them all.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Ever want to blow Aunt Bee's head off with a shotgun? Me, too.
I love "The Andy Griffith Show", or at least the black-and-white episodes before Barney left and the show became a living nightmare of horror. Mayberry was filled with lovable characters--Andy, Barney, Opie, Floyd the brain-damaged barber, Goober the dangerous idiot, Gomer the other dangerous idiot, Thelma Lou, Ernest T. Bass, the Darlings, and so on. All of them lovable.
All except for Aunt Bee, who was supposed to be lovable but elicited nothing but pure, seething hatred. The despicable, loathesome Aunt Bee. Oh, how I've fantasized about all the different ways I wanted to execute her. Or how cool it would've been if some guy Andy put in prison escaped and returned to Mayberry looking for revenge, and ended up blowing Aunt Bee in half with a shotgun. In slow motion. It would've made a great Sam Peckinpah episode.
BLAM! Aunt Bee's mid-section explodes and she goes flying backward in slow motion through the livingroom window as the bad guy keeps on pumping and shooting. CRASH! Glass shards cascade in all directions as Aunt Bee smashes through the window, her fat feet flying upward. She would land like an overstuffed sack of manure on the porch just as Gomer and Goober, who had been invited for supper that night, were coming up the steps. "GOH-HOL-LEEE!" Gomer would utter in surprise. "Somebody dun kilt Aunt Bee!" and Goober would say "Does this mean we don't git tuh eat?"
Aunt Bee was sorta okay in the earlier episodes, before she began to assert her evil influence over the Taylor household. But one day the writers thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we suddenly made Aunt Bee a brass-plated bitch in this episode?", which gradually got to be a habit with them after a while. "Hey, let's have Aunt Bee interfere with Andy's duties as a sheriff by angrily protesting some old bum's eviction" or "Hey, let's have Aunt Bee join the Mayberry Women's League and start sticking her big, fat nose into everybody's business and giving strident lectures to people about stuff she doesn't know jack sh** about", and finally "Hey, let's have Aunt Bee nag the ever-livin' dog crap out of Andy until the last traces of his amiable, laidback NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS-type character have been totally beaten out of him, leaving him a bitter, irritable, and humorless shell of his former self." Which is exactly what happened, thanks to the unrelenting, soul-crushing horror that was Aunt Bee.
The nadir came in one of the color episodes, when Andy was appointed umpire of the Little League championship game that Opie was playing in. Of course, Andy ended up having to call Opie out, losing the game for the home team, and Aunt Bee went hog-wild. She waddled up to the fence, spittle flying from her festering gob, and croaked "You were supposed to HELP!" with all the bile-spewing vitriol her rancid soul could muster. So, of course, she was royally and righteously pissed off at Andy for displaying honesty and integrity, and Andy's slow slide into utter despair once again became an ulcer-fueled rocket sled to Hell. This would've been a good time to introduce the revenge-crazed escaped convict with the pump shotgun, but no. Aunt Bee was like Jason Voorhees--you couldn't kill her, no matter how much horror and agony she spread to everyone around her during her one-hag buffalo stampede through the once-idyllic town of Mayberry.
Andy finally got his ass out of town when he married Helen Crump, who by that time was just as much of a spiteful harridan as Aunt Bee so he ended up pretty much just-plain screwed forever. (Well, not quite forever--when Helen and Aunt Bee finally kicked the bucket, Andy was free to change his name to Ben Matlock and revert back to his former easygoing self.) The show morphed into "Mayberry, R.F.D." and Aunt Bee moved in with the unsuspecting Ken Berry and his equally-doomed son, "Mike", who had no idea what disaster had just befallen them. In one episode, for no particular freakin' reason whatsoever, Aunt Bee decides to take flying lessons. We're supposed to get all happy and inspired when she makes her first solo flight, but for some unimaginable reason the writers left out the part where she flies straight into a water tower and the plane explodes. Sorry, but that's just lazy scriptwriting.
As you can surmise, I've oftened imagined Aunt Bee horrendously frying in the electric chair a la Michael Jeter in THE GREEN MILE, or taking Robert Blake's place during the big hanging scene at the end of IN COLD BLOOD. A firing squad would be cool, though a little too quick for my taste. Or how about a special edition of SAW, with Aunt Bee digitally inserted into all of the torture sequences? Surely this is possible with today's technology. And Ron Howard's still around to do some new scenes--I'm sure a grown-up Opie would love to resolve some of his long-suppressed hostility issues with Aunt Bee by gleefully cheering the maniac on.
Hey, how about an all-new "Mayberry" TV-movie where Aunt Bee finally gets what's coming to her? You know, something like 2000 MANIACS, only heartwarming. It's too late for Don Knotts and Sam Peckinpah to join in the fun, but good old Andy's still kicking. Come to think of it, forget the revenge-crazed escaped convict. Just hand revenge-crazed Andy that pump shotgun--I'm pretty sure he'll know what to do with it.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I was watching THE DARK KNIGHT again recently, and during the scene where the character known as "The Chechan" walks into the big mob meeting, it occurred to me that he somewhat resembled Heath Ledger's "The Joker" from behind. Then the phrase "the Joker from behind" got stuck in my head.
As I repeated it over and over to myself, it started to sound kind of like "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", that cool 60s spy series with Robert Vaughn. So then I pictured the phrase as "The Joker From B.E.H.I.N.D.", and for the next several hours I kept wondering what the hell kind of super spy organization would have such a stupid-sounding acronym as "B.E.H.I.N.D."? And why would their main secret agent be called "The Joker"?
Before you knew it, I had dashed off a series treatment called "The Joker From B.E.H.I.N.D." and arranged a meeting with J.B. Chickenstein, the executive in charge of programming for NBC. Later that afternoon in his office, he looked at me across his desk and asked, "What is this series about, porfle?" and I answered, using some Sesame Street hand puppets as visual aids:
"Well, J.B., it's about a secret agent who works for a super-secret spy organization known as B.E.H.I.N.D., which stands for 'Bureau (of) Espionage, Headquarters In North Dakota.' But they're not really in North Dakota, see--that's just a clever ruse to throw off their enemies. Their number one agent, around whom the series will revolve, is an ex-Navy Seal, international martial arts champion, and former stand-up comic known as 'Joker' Johnson. Not sure if we can afford him or not, but in the lead role I see...David Hasselhoff."
"Hasselhoff, eh?" broke in J.B. as he stroked his chin thoughtfully. I marvelled at how smoothly J.B.'s famous catchphrase, which he had been uttering intermittently against his will ever since being attacked by squirrels one day in Central Park while eating a ham sandwich, had worked itself into our conversation. Usually it stuck out like a sore thumb, as in the time Rachel in Accounting announced that she was pregnant and J.B. responded, "Hasselhoff, eh?"
"Yes, he is the only possible choice," I asserted, showing J.B. a cut-out doll I'd made of "Joker" Johnson with David Hasselhoff's head pasted on it. I moved it around on the edge of the desk to simulate walking, which seemed to elicit a positive reaction.
Suddenly, J.B. buzzed his secretary. "Vera, get security. Tell them there's an impostor in my office, pretending to be porfle." He sat back warily and shot me a suspicious glare. "Hasselhoff, eh?" he accused.
I stood up angrily, crumpling the doll in my trembling fists. "Curses!" I shrieked. "For years I've labored to perfect my porfle impersonation! Not to mention the endless sessions of painful plastic surgery! What in the galloping blue blazes gave me away?"
J.B. gave me a smug look as he toyed with a pencil. "You overlooked one thing," he explained. "You, my friend, are left-handed. Whereas porfle, as everyone knows, is right-handed."
"But," I sputtered, "I'm NOT left-handed. I'm right-handed, just like porfle."
"Oh," said J.B. "I thought you were left-handed. Well then, let's just call it a lucky guess."
Just then, two burly, armed security guards burst through the door. J.B. stood up and pointed at me. "Get him!" he ordered. "He's a porfle impersonator!"
The guards gasped in shock, then advanced with nightsticks and handcuffs at the ready. I sprang from my chair and leapt catlike onto J.B.'s desk. "You'll never take me alive!" I screamed, executing a thrilling kamikaze dive right through the open window. A sudden wave of terrifying vertigo swept through my body as I found myself in mid-air, rushing helplessly toward the ground. Then I landed in some bushes outside of J.B.'s window, which, fortunately, was on the first floor.
More security guards were already pouring out of the front door as I scrambled to my feet and sprinted toward the fabulous porfmobile, which was double-parked in back of a hot dog stand. Leaping into the cockpit, I flicked a switch to activate shields and punched the power-up button. The porfmobile roared to life like a surging beast and made my seat vibrate really hard, which felt awesome. I looked over at Robin, the Boy Wonder, who was pressing buttons on his control panel.
"Reactor to power!" he cried. "Turbines to speed!" He sat back in his seat and braced himself for the sudden burst forward.
I gaped at him in surprise. "Robin? What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm ready to help you fight crime, of course!" Robin said breathlessly. "Let's go!" He sat back and braced himself again.
I pressed the ejector button. A section of the roof blew away and Robin flew upward through the hole like a jack-in-the-box, screaming. He landed headfirst in a garbage can about thirty feet away, which then fell over and started rolling down the hill into traffic.
Suddenly the security guards arrived and started beating on the porfmobile with their nightsticks. Well, I didn't like that! Springing into action like a coiled cobra, I pushed a button on the door. The power window came down slightly.
"I don't like that," I said through the crack. "Would you please stop doing it?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," said the head guard, lowering his nightstick with an abashed look. "You see, we were just--hey, wait a minute! I don't care if you like it or not!" He started banging on the porfmobile again and pretty soon they were all doing it.
Well--long story short--I set the controls to emit a sustained burst of deadly radiation which instantly flash-fried the security guards like fish sticks. Then I parked the porfmobile on the lawn across from J.B.'s office, activated my hood-mounted twin M-47 DRAGON Guided Missile Launchers, and blew J.B.'s fat ass to smithereens. I imagined him uttering "Hasselhoff, eh?" one last time as he exploded.
"That's right, J.B.," I chuckled, taking off my mask and revealing myself to be none other than David Hasselhoff. "You didn't know how right you were." I said it all smart-alecky, too, so it sounded really cool. Then I drove away, admiring myself in the rear-view mirror and thinking of how totally cool it was to be David Hasselhoff. I was doing that when I drove across some railroad tracks and got hit by a freight train, which shattered the fabulous porfmobile into a million pieces. Suddenly I found myself pinned by centrifugal force to the cowcatcher of a speeding train, flying through the outskirts of town as people noticed me going by and said, "Hey, isn't that David Hasselhoff?" I waved and gave them a "thumbs up", pretending that I was doing it on purpose.
When the train finally stopped in Butte, Montana, I fell off and took a bus back to my hometown, where the streets were filled with joyous people dancing around celebrating J.B.'s demise, singing "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead." I was hailed as a hero. The mayor presented me with J.B.'s ruby bowling shoes, and before long I was skipping merrily along the yellow brick road on my way to the Emerald City. A few hours later I stopped suddenly and thought: "Wait a minute...what the hell am I doing here?" So I turned around and went home.
My cat was mad at me for forgetting to feed her that morning, so I gave her some tuna fish. Then I turned on the TV and sat back in my easy chair to enjoy some fine entertainment. Suddenly a promo for "The Joker From B.E.H.I.N.D." came on, announcing it as the flagship series for NBC's new fall season. Damn! J.B. had stolen my idea and sold it to the network before I'd had a chance to blow him up, and now the show was destined to be a big hit without me.
The promo even had David Hasselhoff in it as "Joker" Johnson, which made me realize that I was actually a David Hasselhoff impersonator, which was a huge letdown. My parents, upon realizing that they were actually David Hasselhoff's parents, disowned me. My cat, who was really David Hasselhoff's cat, ran away. And I, who was really porfle, vowed never again to use my mind for anything besides looking at internet porn and inventing things that had already been invented, like nuclear reactors and squirrels.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I remember the time I tried to accuse Gene Roddenberry of stealing the idea for "Star Trek" from me. It wasn't true, of course, but I saw an opportunity for big money if I could pull it off!
I stormed into his office unannounced one day and pounded my fist on his desk. "You stole the idea for 'Star Trek' from me, you bastard!"
"'Star Trek'?" he said with a puzzled look. "What's that?"
"Huh? Wait a minute...what year is this?"
"Oh," I said sheepishly. Retreating from his office, I turned at the door and shot him a defiant look over my shoulder. "See you in three years, SUCKAH!!!"
Three years later, I stormed into his office again and slammed my fist on his desk even harder than I had last time. "You stole the idea for 'Star Trek' from me, you bastard!"
He looked up from some script pages he'd been going over and lowered his glasses on his nose to get a better look at me. "No, I didn't," he claimed. "I totally made it up on my own."
This enraged me, so I stood there clenching my fists, shaking uncontrollably, looking around for something demonstrative to do. Gene's size 12 feet were crossed on his desk, so I grabbed him by the ankles and started swinging him around the room in wide circles. He yowled in a mixture of shock and fear as the script pages fluttered around like big, square snowflakes. Then I let go and launched him right through the window. He crashed through the glass and disappeared with a scream.
I ran to the shattered window and looked down just in time to see Gene being carried away in the back of a passing turnip truck. Since there didn't seem to be anyone at the helm of "Star Trek" at the moment, I sat down at his desk and took over production of the show. Buzzing my new secretary, Dorothy, I ordered her to alert the entire cast and crew of the show to assemble in my office on the double.
There wasn't enough room in there for everybody so they had to sit in each other's laps, ride piggy-back, or make other arrangements. Shatner, who had ended up draped across the back of a couch with production designer Matt Jeffries sitting on his stomach, demanded to know what "the hell" was going on.
"Listen, pal," I growled, chewing on a cigar, "this is my show now, see? I created it, not that Roddenberry mug, see? Anybody got a beef with that? Who wants a knuckle sandwich?" I brandished my fist threateningly while glowering like a bulldog and blowing huge clouds of cigar smoke from the corners of my mouth.
Leonard Nimoy, who was partially wedged underneath the desk and had propmaster Irving Feinberg's butt in his face, spoke up with a groan. "Where's Gene?" he inquired. "He's the creator of this show, not you, and he should be--"
"YAAAAAAA!!!" I exploded in a burst of rage, flailing my arms. "I CREATED THE SHOW!!! ME, ME, MEEEEE!!!" Screaming like a banshee, I leapt onto the desk and started jumping up and down. At one point, my pants fell down around my ankles but I didn't notice. Chunks of plaster began to crumble from the walls and ceiling while ominous creaking and groaning noises filled the room. "ME, ME, MEEEEE!!!" I continued to scream.
Suddenly the overloaded floor gave way with a tremendous din of splintering wood and a billowing cloud of dust. Everyone crashed through, plummetting from the second storey to the first and landing in the lobby of the office building like so many sacks of tomatoes until the floor was littered with people and debris. DeForest Kelley had fallen through the top of a candy machine and could now be seen through the display glass, as though he were on sale for a mere thirty-five cents. George Takei had landed on a watercooler, smashing the large container of water and taking its place atop the machine. Nichelle Nichols was part of a large potted plant next to the restrooms.
When the noise had subsided, I calmly rose to my feet and produced a script from my back pocket. "You see," I said in a reasonable voice, "this is my original script for 'Star Trek', which I wrote several years before this Roddenberry jerk started running around claiming to have invented the whole thing himself." I showed it to Shatner and Nimoy, who were hanging upside-down by their feet from some kind of electrical wiring.
"This..." Nimoy sputtered, gasping for air. "This...is a script...for a sitcom called 'Leave It To Pooky.'"
"That's right," I affirmed. "Oh sure, Roddenberry changed a few things. Names, locations, whatever. Merely a thinly-disguised attempt to steal my ideas." I flipped a few pages and pointed. "See? The next-door neighbor character named Mr. Dinglehooter? That's Mr. Spock. And the kooky teenage daughter who's going through a volatile social and sexual awakening that leads to lots of comical complications? That's, uh...Scotty."
"What about me?" Shatner croaked. "Who am I?"
"Oh, you're Pooky, of course."
"But...Pooky's a dog!"
"Yes," I agreed, holding up a finger, "but he's a dog with all of Captain Kirk's most distinctive qualities! Courage, wisdom...uh, irresistible sex appeal..."
"Hmm," Shatner intoned. "This is all starting to make some sense."
"Oh, for god's sake, Bill," scoffed Nimoy.
Suddenly, Gene Roddenberry's ample bulk filled the front doorway. His clothing was strangely rumpled, and whenever he moved, turnips fell out of it. He pointed at me with a trembling finger. "SECURITY!" he cried. "GET THAT GUY!"
"You'll hear from my lawyers, you big dope!" I screamed, making my getaway with armed guards hot on my heels.
It wasn't long after this that the first Klingons began to appear on "Star Trek", and I like to think that they were at least partially inspired by my disruptive antics that day. On the whole, I felt as though I had really accomplished something worthwhile and was pretty darn proud of myself, until a few years later, after "Star Trek" had been cancelled, a new show appeared on NBC's fall schedule. Sure enough, it was "Leave It To Pooky." It turned out to be a big, big hit, with "Pooky" fan clubs popping up all over the world and billions of dollars rolling in from "Pooky" merchandising. And to add insult to injury, the opening credits every week featured the huge, glittering letters: "CREATED BY GENE RODDENBERRY, AND NOT PORFLE."
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Friday, November 26, 2010
(NOTE: In order to get anything out of this, you have to have seen both Stanley Kubrick's classic masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and Coleman Francis' classic messterpiece THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS. If you haven't, it might not make much sense. If you have, it still might not make much sense.)
1. THE DAWN OF MAN
Human evolution time. An ape and his wife. Unaware of scientific progress.
Always on the prowl. Looking for something or somebody to kill. Quench the apeman's thirst.
Shockwaves of an alien monolith. A once powerful, humble ape. Reduced to...human.
Monolith on the moon--how did it get there?
Heywood Floyd, noted scientist. Recently escaped from behind the shower curtain. Wife and children bored in Florida.
His aide carries a briefcase. Secret data on the alien moon monolith.
Secret data. Pictures of the monolith.
These men are also from behind the shower curtain. Two of NASA's most ruthless accountants. Their orders: get the briefcase. Have lunch with Floyd.
Heywood Floyd's destination...Clavius. And a meeting with the top brass at the monolith excavation ground.
Nothing bothers some people, not even floating fountain pens.
Kids from Earth, not yet caught up in the whirlwind of progress, feed birthday cake to the hungry bush baby.
Touch a button...things happen. A scientist uses a zero-gravity toilet.
A man chokes on a ham sandwich. A scientist's lunch. And footprints on the moonscape.
Secret data. Never before outside NASA. Man's first monolith on the moon.
2. JUPITER MISSION--18 MONTHS LATER
Human evolution time. People travel east, west, north, or south. The Discovery travels east, with two small astronauts. Adventurous astronauts.
Young Dave Bowman. Spaceman. Caught in the centrifugal wheels of progress.
Frank Poole, Dave's partner. Another man caught in the frantic race for the betterment of mankind. Progress.
Seven-hundred and ten in the shade...and no shade. Dave and Frank try to make their way up to Jupiter. To reach the planet a man needs a space pod. A jump from the pod could land you in orbit.
Frank Poole. Wounded para-sailing in Malibu. Dave and Frank try to keep the cosmos safe for humanity. Seven days a week.
Meteors. Once a menace to astronauts. Moon bases deflect them off their research grounds.
Hours in the broiling hot space laboratory, with no trace of the malfunction. To replace the AE-35 unit and allow it to fail is the only answer. A trip out into space, and float. And if the malfunction is in the ship's onboard computer, HAL...disconnect him. Disconnect first, ask questions later.
Dave and Frank pick their way up to the mouth of the space pod. One slip, and two feet to nowhere.
The space pod drops its man. If Frank Poole moves north, the impending malfunction will be caught in the middle. An innocent AE-35 unit, caught in the wheels of justice.
A man floats. Somebody severs his air hose.
HAL, finding his victim gone, unleashes his fury.
The hunter and the hunted. With only a few feet between him and the emergency airlock, Dave Bowman closes in for the kill.
20 hours without rest, and still no oxygen. In the smothering deep space vacuum, Dave plans another attack. Find HAL's brain, and disconnect him. Disconnect, or be disconnected. Man's inhumanity...to machine.
3. JUPITER AND BEYOND THE INFINITE
Dave Bowman, noted astronaut. Now a star fetus, prowling the spacelands. A futuristic baby in the nuclear age. Float. Float, just to be floating.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I can't help but recall the time astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin had Thanksgiving dinner with me and my family. (He didn't really, but that doesn't affect the story all that much so don't worry about it.)
We were all getting ready to sit down to dinner when the doorbell rang. Being the youngest, I answered it. To my surprise, astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, was standing on the porch. He was wearing a nice suit and was smiling brightly. He looked hungry!
"Aren't you Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut?" I asked, recognizing him from all the TV news moon-landing coverage.
"Yes, I am," he responded with a crisp nod. "I'm here for dinner...and boy, does it ever smell good." He rocked a bit on his heels, looking eager and expectant. Figuring that somebody must've invited him, I stood aside and ushered him in.
"Buzz Aldrin's here, everybody," I announced to my astonished family while fetching another chair from the kitchen and dragging it to the diningroom table. I had to squeeze Buzz in between me and my sister. The rest of the family had frozen in mid-motion at the sight of him and watched as he sat down and spread a napkin in his lap. "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse," he quipped.
Dad cleared his throat and spoke hesitantly. "Uhh...I was just about to say the blessing, Mr. Aldrin. But perhaps you'd do the honors instead."
"I'd be happy to," said Buzz. We all lowered our heads, and Buzz began to speak in a low, sonorous voice. "Dear Lord...bless the moon and the astronauts and spaceships and NASA, and Walter Cronkite, and those weird little gremlins that come through the walls of our space capsules in outer space and try to kill us. And bless Grandma and Uncle Spanky and Boris Karloff and the Jackson Five and the brave plumbers who fix our toilets so that we can relieve ourselves without having to go outside." He looked around and smiled. "Amen."
"Amen," we all repeated nervously. Even though it was an honor to have a famous astronaut eating Thanksgiving dinner with us, he was starting to creep us out a little. And nobody knew why the heck he was there in the first place.
Dad passed the turkey platter to our guest. Buzz held it in both hands and regarded the golden brown turkey appreciatively. "This dead bird, whose corpse has been roasted," he announced momentously, "will soon be eagerly masticated by our gnashing teeth and drenched in our gushing saliva. And then we will swallow it, beginning the strange, magical digestive process that will eventually result in our bowels moving and expelling--"
"Would you like some yams?" Mom interjected, hoping to bring a halt to Buzz's potentially graphic speech.
Buzz glanced at her and shook his head. "No, thank you. This dead bird, whose corpse has been roasted," he muttered, trying to regain his place, "uh, blah, blah, blah...magical digestive process..." His voice took on its rich, confident tone once again. "Beginning the strange, magical digestive process that will eventually result in our bowels moving and ex--"
"Tell us about the moon landing!" Mom almost yelped.
For a few moments, Buzz looked at her as though she were some kind of creature from Mars. Then his head seemed to clear a bit, and he smiled. "Well," he said, "it was kind of like this." He laid the platter down and stuck his hand up inside the turkey, lifting it up and moving it around like some kind of ghastly hand puppet. "Let's say the table is the moon's surface, and the space capsule is represented by this dead bird, whose corpse has been roasted..." He stopped, a look of confusion settling over his features. "We will soon be eagerly masticating it with our gnashing teeth, and drenching it in our gushing saliva..."
I didn't want to hear about that process again so I interjected. "What was it like walking around on the moon?" I asked.
Buzz brightened again. "Well, it was like this," he explained, now using the impromptu turkey-puppet to represent himself on the moon's surface. He minced it around on the table, bobbing it up and down slowly as though semi-weightless, and weaving it deftly around between the big bowl of mashed potatoes and a heaping platter of cornbread dressing. "This is me," he added, nodding down at the turkey in case we hadn't already grasped that. Then he reached over and grabbed my nephew Danny by his suspenders and lifted him out of his highchair. "And this is Neil Armstrong."
As we all looked on in horror, Aldrin "moon-walked" baby Danny around on the table along with the dead turkey in what was probably the most revolting "mission simulation" in aerospace history. Nobody knew what to do, since the situation was entirely alien to us. Even my sister, who was Danny's mother, was afraid to do anything to antagonize Buzz at this point. And still the horrible display continued, as turkey and baby took on the roles of the first two astronauts to walk on the moon.
"Please...please..." my sister finally managed to croak. "Please put him down."
Buzz looked at her as though she had two heads. "Put who down? Me or Neil?" he asked.
"PUT...THE BABY...DOWN!!!" she screamed at last, pounding her fists on the table with a clatter.
Buzz looked at the baby, then at the turkey. A strange sort of realization began to creep over his face. "Well, I, uh..." he said slowly. "I'm afraid I...don't really know...which is the baby...and which is the dead bird...whose corpse has been roasted..."
"Not that again!" Mom shrieked, rising to her feet and grabbing her hair with both hands. "NOT THE DIGESTIVE PROCESS STORY AGAIN!!!"
Silently, Buzz removed his hand from the turkey and placed it in the highchair, and then gently lowered Danny onto the turkey platter. With deliberate restraint, he crossed his hands in his lap and spoke softly. "I thought you all wanted to know about the moon landing," he said with self-pity and a faint air of reproach. "You asked me to describe it. I did so, using whatever visual aids were available at the time. If you'd wanted me to use different ones, you should have supplied them."
His eyes took on a dreamy look. "Walter Cronkite supplied me with a neat-o toy spaceship and some little astronaut dolls that I got to keep, and a very nice scale mock-up of the Sea of Tranquility. But all I had here was this strange creature--" he indicated Danny, who was cooing up at him in wonder--"and this dead bird, whose corpse has been roasted and will soon be eagerly masticated by our gnashing teeth and drenched in our gushing saliva--"
"I...don't...think...so," Mom groaned, clipping the words off bitterly. "Not after you've had your hand stuck up inside it like that. We'll not be 'masticating' that bird today, Mr. Aldrin. And after all the trouble I went to...to..." At that point it all became too much for her and she collapsed in a fit of convulsive weeping. Dad rushed over and hurried her out of the room. "I want you out of here," he said hoarsely to Buzz on his way past.
Buzz Aldrin took a deep breath, then shook his head as though he'd just awakened from a brief nap. He looked around at us with a smile, seemingly unaware of the travesty he'd just made of our now-ruined Thanksgiving dinner, and continued where he'd left off. "Beginning the strange, magical digestive process that will eventually result in our bowels--"
My sister screamed and whisked Danny away, fleeing the room. Buzz watched her exit with a perplexed look and then turned to regard me as I sat trembling. Aside from the turkey, which was still sitting in the highchair, it was just me and Buzz at the table now. I wished I were somewhere else. Or more precisely, that Buzz were somewhere else.
Buzz picked up the turkey in one hand and a large sweet potato in the other. "Would you like to see what a real NASA docking maneuver looks like?" he asked with a grin.
"No," I said weakly. Then, summoning my courage, I added, "I think you should just leave."
"Oh?" said Buzz. "Well, thank you for a lovely meal." He rose from the table and headed for the front door. Was he simply pretending that he hadn't just totally disrupted everything, I thought, or was he genuinely unaware? I would never know. Buzz disappeared out the door and out of our lives forever.
That is, until he showed up for breakfast the next morning. You don't want to know what he tried to "simulate" with the link sausage, scrambled eggs, and our dog. Something to do with "pulling eleven G's" or whatever. Anyway, for what it's worth, I don't think astronauts and Thanksgiving go together very well at all.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)