Hollywood Sci-Fi’s Triteness of Time

Arrival has some moments, many deep loud sounds and a cool circular alphabet, but is burdened with yet another trite spin on our perception of time. The fact is that we human are constrained to a linear understanding of time due to gravity – not only the rotation of the earth but that of the moon and sun as well.

Our feet are firmly planted to this ground. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughter House Five: Transfalmadorians saw time like they were looking across a desert at a mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak or a bird or a cloud, at a stone in front of them, or even down into a canyon behind them. But among them was this poor Earthling, and his head was encased in steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eye-hole through which he could look, and welded to that eye-hole were six feet of pipe.

Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, humans not limited by that six feet of pipe, have made us aware that time is relative, not a constant, but a variable. This idea of time being a dimension is gold for science fiction – including my own Anori Trilogy – because the author is only limited by perceptions, able to contract and pause, even reverse what we thought could only be one way. And yet the startling concept is regularly fumbled, beginning with H.G. Wells rudimentary application in The Time Machine.The incipient pattern has continued. Inception created a childish world where the rate of time slows by halves in the subconscious, while a vast array of movies – such as the Terminator franchise – send messengers from the future to wreak havoc on today. Interstellar offers the tritest concept of all: a physical space where moments may be checked out of a galactic library. Arrival doesn’t do much better than this. (Spoiler alert unless you’re reading this in the future.) The opening presents itself as a flashback, only to be revealed at the end as the future –  not a sleight of hand but a lie.

It, like Passengers, was doomed from the get-go, as Hollywood knows nothing about time, except that it’s money and that the first box office weekend better not be a black hole.

The most provocative film on time would have to be Primer; everything it lacks in budget ($7,000) is made up for in concept, the kind of thing even Einstein might enjoy.

Canada’s Soul: Saskatoon to Edmonton

July 15, Ride One: Saskatoon to North Battlefield (Souped-up Trans Am) Nice Indian guy who used to be a dealer; into motorcycles and Van Morrison.

Ride Two: North Battlefield to Peynton (Camper Pick-up) Old Indian man with weathered skin; lived on the reserve, very friendly. Ride Three: Peynton to Lloydsminster (Air-conditioned Oldsmobile) Singer with a thin half-beard. Doesn’t like Indians because they “cut holes in the side of the house so their horse can drink from the bath tub.”

Ride Four: Lloydsminster to Vermillion (Blue Phoenix) Mild-mannered driver who has worked and lived all over the country.

Ride Five: Vermillion to Edmonton (AMC Meteor station wagon) Quite political, doesn’t like sports,sausage buyer, has a water tower for sale.

Canada’s Soul: Winnipeg to Saskatoon

After a visit to the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg and writing of “the gatherings of self-made gods separated by a golden rail and velvet curtain”, I continued west.

July 11, Ride Two: Winnipeg to Highway 16 Turnoff (Red pick-up truck) Part of a small convoy of Indians headed north. “Hey, back there, you want a smoke?”

Ride Three: Highway 16 to Regina (Blue Chevette) Jeff Gibbs on his way to Alaska. Was with the military in Germany, worked as computer programmer for Pershing missiles. Did acid on Check Duty. Derided quality of commercial gasoline as – ‘ass gas.” I spent two days in Regina where I met a couple in the park who had won a radio station contest and shared their fresh-caught salmon and case of beer, the man telling the story of almost being captured by a zombie witch cult.

July 13, Ride One: Regina to Wattrous (Old pick-up truck) Driver looked like a maniac – wild hair, stubble, weird look, dirty green shirt. “If you run out of money, you’ll just have to get some more.”

Ride Two: Wattrous to Saskatoon (Blue Meteor station wagon) Middle-aged woman with two small kids who made her turn around and pick me up. “You should write me to show me how well you’ve done.”

A Very New York Christmas

After a quiet day indoors, I went to see a movie at an art-house cinema where the clientele, mostly in their later years, were anxious and perturbed, snipping at each other for better seats, unhappy with the lack of air conditioning as well as the tight quarters, leaving my neighbor and I both to wonder aloud why we had left our apartments in the first place, even if the film was fine, which it was, German and provoking, as was the bar later on, except that the clientele was perturbed there too, drunk maybe being more accurate a phrase, anxious for the next round or just be less alone……while the bartender loudly repeated his story of getting so sick of a woman who wouldn’t stop playing George Michael songs on the jukebox, so sick of listening to George Michael songs that he not only didn’t care that George Michael had just died, but more than that, he would rather listen to absolutely anything else, even The Chipmunks’ Christmas Don’t Be Late, than another one of George Michael’s fucking songs, and told her if she didn’t like it, there were two doors and to use one of them, all to the delight of his patrons,all of whom wanted another drink, anything not to have to go home because there was no one there. Or maybe that was all me.

Be What You Know, Stupid

I now know, or think I know, that I should only write what I know. I liked writing as a teenager and kid, but it wasn’t anything big. I just had a compulsion to write things down – travelogues, ratings for movies, things like that. When it came to writing stories, I was a clod, convinced that I had to write about important things, be philosophical, and I was really bad at that. (Expect examples to be forthcoming.) I didn’t write about me, about being a teenager, and that I didn’t like being a teenager or kid because I thought being a teenager was a stupid thing.

I didn’t write about that feeling of being stupid, never being happy with who or what I was, where I fit, because I didn’t – fit, that is. I wanted something else, something I couldn’t figure out. And so I pretended that I knew and wrote like that, instead of this, which, good or not, is what I know.It’s my voice, pathetic but real. I can be almost happy to share my embarrassment, my regrets and humiliations, my spasms. I’m getting better at that, better at understanding that the more I let it be what it is, the more to the point, the clearer my understanding of something – I don’t know what – becomes.

For one thing, I’m not much for Christmas. I liked it as a kid, the promise of it, but that was over by 8 am, lost among the heaps of wrapping paper and stacked-up stuff. I looked for it on the TV after that, but there were just cartoons and a dreadfully long dinner to come. As an adult, it’s so much worse, the desperation of trying to get back to something that never was, wearing elf hats, miming good cheer, taking pictures of each other looking stupid doing that. I am happy to be generous, but that does not mean having to listen to the drivel of siblings and offspring. No, I would rather do what makes me happy instead, yes, writing about that.

Canada’s Soul: Ahmic Harbour To Winnipeg

July 3, Ride Three: Parry Sound to Sudbury (Brown VW Rabbit) Driver was moving to Portland to study herbal medicine.

July 4, Ride One: Sault Saint Marie to Wawa (Custom Chevy Van) Driver wore fancy track pants. Loved the country and understand “its power”.

I waited in Wawa for three hours and considered the graffiti underneath the giant goose. Wawa sucks! Fuck Wawa! Jerky Fuckwell, I Slept Here.

Ride Two: Wawa to Thunder Bay (Silver VW Rabbit) Alison and Jane Wright. Got stoned with them. “Electric knives are fine but freedom is incredible. God, I’m happy to be alive.”

Climbed on top of a train in Thunder Bay depot to take a picture; almost fell off when it began to move.

July 6, Ride Three: Terry Fox Monument to Sunshine (Brown VW Rabbit) “You have to like sitting at the side of the road.”

July 7: Ride One: Sunshine to Winnipeg (Blue Colt, pictured below) Dave and his nephew Sean, Indians from Winnipeg. Dave enjoys the silence of the forest, forest fire trivia and is obsessed with sex. Lots of “Bloody Red Baron Beaver” jokes. Had dinner at their house – salad, chicken, baked potatoes and beer; wife joked that I had dinner with Indians and wasn’t eaten.

Ice Friday: Song of Kiche Manitou

The Creator, for the Ojibway, is Kiche Manitou:

Young and old asked: Who gave to me the breath of Life, the beat of flesh? Who gave to me the beat of heart my vision to behold? Who? How to Bear the gift of sense of time, a place of wandering? How to Eagle came the gift of a glance of love, the flash of rage? How? Who gave to us the gifts we do not own but borrow and pass on? Who made us one? Who set the Path of Souls? Who carved the Land of Peace? Who?*

(*From Basil Johnston’s Ojibway Culture)