Dinked

He’s right on my ass. I can’t even see his front plate. I think, “I need to get out of his way.” So I turn right and there is an appalling scraping sound from the passenger side of the car. The Wife cringes visibly.

I pull over and step out to survey the damage. Yep. It’s a dink alright. First dink on this car. Now I’m pissed. Why is it always parking lots that I can’t find my way around in? The Wife says “you need to learn to stop letting other people pressure you into doing things” and promptly motions for me to move back out into traffic. The Wife can be an iron sometimes.

This takes me all the way back. Back to the driver’s education instructor who forced me to drive at highway speeds by putting his foot on the accelerator and pressing it until we were weaving all over the road at 60 miles an hour. All he had to say was “keep it between the lines.” That was my first moment of sheer driving terror.

Then there was my first auto accident. I had my learner’s permit. I drove Mom up to Village foods and parked badly next to a nice tan Oldsmobile. Mom said “I’ll leave you here but don’t move the car without me. I’ll be right back.”

No sooner had Mom gone into the store than the woman who owned the Olds came out and surveyed my parking job. “You have to move so I can leave” she tells me.

I repeat what Mom said “I can’t move till my Mom comes back.” When she insists I have to move or she can’t leave I further explain “I only have a learner’s permit. I can’t drive without an adult in the car.” She becomes outraged at that point. Red in the face, hollerin’ and screamin’ like I had insulted her cat or something.

“You will move that car right now young man!”

So I put the car in gear, turned the wheel and promptly gouged a crease in her Olds that probably looked a lot like the one that sank the Titanic. Then she started crying and ran into the store to call the police. Mom came out at about that point and gaped at me.

“I told you not to move! I said I would be right back, and here I am! Why did you move?” and she started crying. Then I started crying. I never could stand to watch her cry.

That was the first and last time I drove on my parent’s insurance. From that point forward I paid the usurious insurance fees that the Texas State legislature allows auto insurers to charged young men under the age of 25, and I paid that rate until I turned 25.

As I’m sitting here thinking about what insurance has cost me over the subsequent forty years, I start thinking about the dollar figure attached to my driving record in the form of the number of incidents that I’ve had over the same number of years. Doing some comparative arithmetic, I’m not sure if it is the insurance companies or the accidents that are winning.

I mean, there was that first one with the Oldsmobile. The next one was in the 1970 Challenger that Dad bought for me in 1979. Me and a guy played footsie at a green light, me going straight and him turning left, neither of us sure who was going to go until we smacked into each other. My brother did a somersault in the backseat. The Challenger never had seat belts. If it did have seat belts when it came off the assembly line, the previous owner took them out when he put in the purple and white shag carpeting on the floor.

She was a beauty that Challenger. Slant six. Metallic purple paint with a white fake leather roof. White leather interior. That scoop-shaped front end that looks like it has severed heads written all over its future. She didn’t look too good after I rolled her a few months later, though. I should have got those brakes fixed before taking her on those Kansas dirt roads. Turn here, oops, into the ditch and onto her roof. I think she ended life as parts for other cars. I just know Dad was as pissed as I had ever seen him, and I had to buy the next car myself. From him.

She was also a beauty. Burnt orange 1972 Chevelle. Black leather interior. She was hot. I mean, really hot in those 110° Texas summer. You rolled the windows down before you got in the car. Someone sideswiped her and ran off a few days after I bought her. A few scratches was all that incident left. Never even told the insurance company about that one.

Then there was that time a girl smoked her tires off in reverse and smashed the back of her Mom’s station wagon into the front of that Chevelle. The front bumper on the Chevelle was pointed, and it rode up into the back of her car like the prow of a ship slicing through water. I was never able to put a front plate on that car again because of that accident. The plate holder was the only thing damaged on my car. The station wagon’s back gate was trashed. Nothing a few thousand dollar wouldn’t fix.

The girl cried and cried when we pulled over. I told her not to worry. “Just go home and explain it to your Mom. It’ll be okay.” I was probably lying. She thanked me for not calling the cops. It was the first time someone begged me not to call the cops, but it wasn’t the last.

The Chevelle ended her time on the road on Halloween night, 1981. I should have snuck into the theater with my cruising buddies that night but I hate horror films and so refused to go with them. Instead I went out and skirted past an orange light about two blocks away from the theater. On the other side of the light was a guy tooling around with six people in his pickup truck, and he had just gotten plastered with water balloons, a time-honored Halloween tradition. He decided right then, as I was coming at him through the light, that he would pull a U-turn and chase the offenders back across town. He never made it.

I tried to swerve, but I was going to fast. He never saw me. Luckily there was only one injury, not counting the knees that I punched through my dashboard and never reported. Should have reported. Some girl in the passenger seat of the truck hit her head on the glovebox handle and got a concussion. They blamed the wreck on me and not the guy making an illegal U-turn because he claimed he was only going to pull into the parking loot across the street. The parking lot didn’t happen to have an opening where he was turning though. The judge ignored that fact when he made his decision.

The Chevelle was totaled and sat on the driveway of our rental house until the day we moved out. I bought a junker off of someone in the neighborhood, I think it was one of the regulars at Mom’s bar. I really can’t remember. 1970 Pontiac Executive. A four-door behemoth we called the Tank. It just needed to be painted green instead of gold and have stars painted on the side and it would have looked just like a tank.

It came to us pre-dinked, and it’s the only car up to that point that I owned that I didn’t wreck. Instead I beat the dents it already had back out with a hammer and I salvaged parts out of the junk yard next door to make the headlights point the right direction. I drove it for years before I handed it off to my sisters.

I bought a 1974 Vega next, the last car I bought from my father. It was not hot, but it was fun to drive. Fun to drive until the engine crapped out. I was on a roll. Two cars, no wrecks! Then I bought the Pinto. 1974 lime green Pinto. I got stoned one night and spray-painted it camouflage. When I mentioned this fact to strangers they’d always remember seeing that car. I guess the camouflage didn’t work. I stripped out all the interior except for the seats and then drove it that way for years. I was rear-ended twice in that Pinto. It never exploded, thank the lucky stars. It died because the U-joint in the drive train was compressed by the last rear-ender, and that caused the joint to fail.

I had met the Wife by that point. We sold that Pinto for fifty bucks to a salvage yard, and we promptly went out and ate fifty dollars worth of Chinese food. The best Pinto we ever ate.

It was at about that time that I bought my first new car. 1987 Cavalier. Gold, just like the Executive. I didn’t hold that against it. I financed that car for 5k and considered it a steal at that, even though it didn’t have air conditioning. That car ate a tree stump on the driver’s side front fender. I backed into a bollard in a convenience store parking lot once or twice. Who’s counting? I hauled the sailboat around with that poor little four-cylindered car for years. Luckily it was a pretty dinky sailboat. Fast in the water, though.

We were rear-ended by a truck when we first moved to Austin. That guy also begged us not to go to the police, and then he crawfished on paying us. We ran across his truck in a parking lot a few months later and we took pictures of the paint from our car that was all over his bumper. When we confronted him with the photos, he paid us the money right on the spot. That’s about the only time justice has been done in my presence, automotive-wise.

We got our first Saturn wagon not too long after that. Another gold car. We needed air conditioning in Austin. The first time we were caught in traffic with a baby in the backseat squalling in 100° temperatures, we knew we needed air conditioning. My father-in-law paid cash for the car. I’d never seen that before. That car didn’t live very long, either.

There was a couple from Denver who were touring the sites off of route 29 in the Hill Country. They were stopped at a stop sign. The husband, who had his hands on the wheel, wanted to turn left. So he started to turn left. His wife, side-seat driving, insisted he go right. So they stopped in front of oncoming traffic to argue about which direction they should go. They never got to finish that argument.

It is a handy rule of thumb to remember that the car goes where the person with the wheel in their hand steers it. It doesn’t go where the passenger wants it to go, and it doesn’t go where those in the peanut gallery behind the driver want it to go. It goes where the driver tells it to go. Maybe agree on a route before you start driving? There’s a thought.

When he stopped in front of me, I couldn’t believe it. There was an eighteen wheeler beside me on the inside lane and cars behind me. There was no way any of us were going to miss that guy’s car. I remember his eyes as he saw us coming. Whites all around. I couldn’t miss him, but I could try not to kill him, so I swerved towards the back of his car and impacted on the rear axle and not center-punch his door at sixty-five miles an hour. Small mercies.

He spun around from the force of the impact on the rear of his car, and the other vehicles managed to avoid him. We hit the center median of the side road he left, and then flew over the lanes he should have been in if he wanted to argue safely, impacting and bouncing over the three foot embankment on the far side of the crossroad. That’s where we left the front bumper of our car. Planted on that dirt embankment. At some point between the first impact and the last, the Wife asks in a plaintive voice “can we please stop hitting things?” I was too busy to answer.

When we were finally able to move, after the powdery fog from the expanded air bags had finally started to settle, we both managed to get out of the car to survey the wreckage. Much more than a dink, this accident. The two plastic front fenders were sticking out a ridiculous distance past what was now the front of the car. Our poor new Saturn wouldn’t be going anywhere aside from the wrecking yard after that.

The Wife got out her laptop that she had carefully packaged against just such an eventuality as the one we had just gone through, and started taking down insurance information from the people whose lives we had just spared. She turned to me after a few minutes and asked me “should I be able to feel my fingers right now?” We put her in the ambulance a few minutes later.

The one time you will ever be happy to see a cop will be the time he shows up to pick up the pieces of a wreck like this one. I could have hugged the guy when I saw him. He drove me to the regional hospital where they had taken the Wife, and we hitched a ride back to town with friends from our fan group who lived out that way.

That was the worst wreck I’d been in up to that point, and it was pretty much the last one, too. I gave up driving as the bad idea I had always thought it was, and I let the Mario Andretti wannabe that I married drive instead. She’s better at it anyway. She’s only wrecked one car, and that one was entirely not her fault. It’s also another story. She can tell it if she likes some other time.

I gave up driving until this summer. Nearly twenty years accident-free, and now I’m back to driving. I’m back to driving because the doctor’s won’t let you drive if you’ve recently had open-heart surgery. The Andretti-ette has been dragged from the car against her will because her chest might collapse in the event of an accident. I think she’d be safer if she was driving. Now I’ve got to go find some rubbing compound and some touch-up paint and see if I can make the new dink in our car appear to go away.

I hate driving. It’s taken me years to realize this fact. I’ve always hated driving. I love cars but I hate driving. The cars have always been worth ten times what I would be comfortable risking on any given day, and risk is what every single outing in a car is all about. Every single long-distance trip in a car was a test of nerve, a right of passage, a moment of transition. Before each trip, I would lovingly bath the car inside and out and anoint it with oils so that the gods of the roadway would bless the venture out into unknown danger. Nearly every long distance trip has gone by without a hitch. Every one except that one with our first Saturn.

It’s the little stuff that gets you. Parking lots. Entering and exiting your own driveway. You know them too well, you aren’t on your guard; and whack, another dink to polish out. It’s the way the car crumples, I guess.

When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50¢? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Under the hood of the rental car. In a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.

Control

You are not in control

This is not news. I have never been allowed the delusion of control. Even my own hands defy my control, putting lines on paper wherever their whimsy takes them. Inanimate objects seem to argue with my attempts to put them where I want them.

Control is something to be dreamed about, not something that can be realized. I rarely even bother to dream of it.

Pinterest Image Spam

My Pinterest account hovers on the verge of abandonment. I do need someplace online to catalog the images I’m fond of now that Flickr wants to charge me to keep more than a thousand images online. Poor Flickr, Another victim of the downfall of Yahoo! Like Tumblr, I abandoned my Flickr account rather than submit to the authority of Verizon.

Instagram is much easier for sharing my own images and I use it routinely for sharing images I create on my phone. If you want to test it’s usefulness, try getting a photo into Instagram from a Windows desktop. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

…Are you back yet?

Yeah, that’s right. You can’t load photos if you don’t have a camera attached to the computer. So much for Instagram’s usefulness to me at home, although it does at least attempt to address the fact that you can’t author images without a camera. If the platform has a camera though, any image you have on the device can be used, even if you don’t author it.

Don’t do a Google image search and then save images directly to your Pinboards. Pinterest stupidly just sends you back to Google when you try to reverse lookup your image, and it doesn’t highlight the image you clicked on as being the result you saved to the board in the first place. Pinterest is almost completely useless as an image catalog that is easily accessible. If you want to save images to Pinterest that you found through an image search, you have to go to the page the image comes from and then save the image to Pinterest directly. You’ll have to do that anyway the next time you think you might want to use that image for something.

The most use I’ve had for Pinterest is saving images that Windows has thrown at me as part of the Windows 10 logon screen, and I’ve wanted to track down exactly where the picture was taken. Bing, for its part, is nearly as useless as Pinterest as far as establishing authorship for any given image. This is one of those things that we as internet users really need to start addressing. Where do these images and ideas come from? Who is responsible for them? Who owns them? There is no collecting authority for image authorship, but there probably should be.

Pinterest is currently the bane of all image searches on Google, and this makes me question why I use it at all. Mostly I use it because I can’t afford to keep a copy of every single image I might want to reference later. I’ll either run out of hard drive space, or have so many files to sort through that I can’t find the image I want anyway. So I group them on Pinterest according to some loose heuristics and pretend that organization makes sense.

However, every time I go looking for an image from Bing or any other cool image platform (including Pinterest) I am inundated with useless Pinterest image results. Useless? Try right-clicking on this image and then clicking on one of the Pinterest results. Now find the image on that board. Go ahead, I’ll wait again.

Are you back yet? No? I didn’t think so.

Time’s up. Did you find the image or where it comes from? Now you know my pain. I was presented the image as this thumbnail on Pinterest:

I had to screenshot and then crop the central image because I couldn’t find the image in the 20k+ images on the author’s one board. Then I pasted it into a blank Chrome tab and did an image search appending this string:

-site:pinterest.*

To the search string. Magically, all the Pinterest results are removed from the results if you add that string. I then discovered that the image came from an etsy account and that the steampunk wrist band I was looking at was sold out. Oh, well. Cool image anyway. In replicating the exact search I had done moments ago, now I discover that some of the Pinterest results do take me to the exact image I want to see. This is doubly frustrating because I have wasted all the time it took to write this daily beef. Fuck you, Pinterest!

Fear Unaccounted For

I’ve found myself yelling at podcasters and news hosts for the last week or so as they muse about what is keeping people from going back to work. Strangers stare at me in the park as I appear to be yelling at myself. It is not an attractive behavior. Even my family is worried about my mental health.

It isn’t the unemployment benefits that Republicans and the Right are self-defeatingly targeting in their red states:

All Things Considered – Conservative Economist Blames High Unemployment On ‘Richer’ Benefits – May 16, 2021

…and it isn’t the minimum wage being too low, as the Democrats and the Left are asserting:

facebook.com/RBReich

The wages are too low, but that isn’t even half of the equation. Fear dominates the markets right now. Breadwinners aren’t willing to go out and risk death for any wage if they don’t have to. Their families rely on them to keep them all afloat. So they will wait and make sure the water of commerce is safe before they will re-enter it.

If you want people to get back to work you are going to have to convince them that their families will not starve without them if they were to die doing whatever it is they do for a living. For example: we need to expand and increase survivor’s benefits from Social Security so that every American who has a family that relies on them for their survival will be able to be at peace with the fact that at least their families will be cared for in the future.

If we did this, insured that families would not go hungry or homeless if the breadwinner dies, and we increased the wages, then you would see people returning to work in droves. Without it you will have to bribe them with dollar figures much higher than what businesses are offering now. A few piddling extra thousand dollars ain’t going to entice people back into the workforce, and making the poor suffer will only make you, the state leadership, the target of their suffering. Look to see red states become more purple in the future if that behavior continues.

This episode of On The Media:

On the Media – The Ghosts of the Rust Belt – May 14, 2021

…will explain everything you need to know about the delusion that Americans have ever had good, steady jobs that paid well. The haven’t and they won’t until they get smart about politics and economics.

facebook

Featured image: What is Thalassophobia?

texasstandard.org

The Shit

Shit is getting real

This shit has distracted me for the last time.

I mean; I’m doing the wrong shit again. I’m doing the wrong shit after I was distracted from doing the right shit earlier today. I had to do some other shit that I needed to do after I did the right shit, but I had people counting on me to do that shit so I had to skip the important shit and do the more time-sensitive shit when that shit needed to be done. Now I’m at the end of the day and the important shit still isn’t done.

I just sat down to do the right shit, and this shit distracted me again. Well, shit!

Now I need to do the shit I didn’t do earlier after the shit that I had to do on time, and so couldn’t do the shit then. That would be the important shit, not the shit I’m doing now, because that shit still needs to be done. So I’m going to get up and do the shit that needs doing instead of this shit, so that I can finish doing the other shit that still needs doing before none of this shit gets done today.

If that happened that would be a shit end to the day and I want to avoid that shit if I can.

Postscript

Oh, yeah. That’s the shit.

The wife could tell that I was obsessed with shit. She was glad I got the shit done. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had more shit to do, but I’ll do that shit tomorrow.

Featured image is from a facebook status, but I deleted that shit.

YouTube – Warren Zevon – My Shit’s Fucked Up (Amazon)

Retconned To Death

A meme popped up in a facebook group I’m part of, a meme asserting that Babylon 5 was the third best Star Trek series of all time. I can see how this claim might be true. Since Deep Space 9 was in actuality the third Star Trek series, and since J. Michael Straczynski (Joe) suddenly came up with the seed money to create Babylon 5 after suing Paramount, the owners of the Star Trek franchise, and then dismissed the suit after an agreement with Paramount, after Paramount realized how much their new series looked like Joe’s pitch to them for Babylon 5; it is quite easy to say that the third Star Trek series was Babylon 5, if not the third best series of Star Trek.

The meme’s real problem becomes apparent when it suggests that the second best Star Trek series after The Original Series (The Only Series) was Star Trek: Enterprise (long time readers of this blog should have been able to hear my head explode when I read that name off the list) I must object to this outrage in the strongest of terms. Enterprise was crap. It was so much of a crap show that I used it to illustrate just how bad science fiction television can be:

…But I’ll go even farther and state for the record that everything Star Trek after and including a good portion of Star Trek: Voyager has been crap. One could argue (and one did) that at least half of TOS season 3 was crap:

Half of TNG was really boring and terrible. Half of Voyager was terrible. It is still the greatest and most culturally significant franchise in SF history. When you get right down to it, art is hard. Consistent quality over a period of decades may not be a reasonable expectation. Might as well savor the high points and forget the terrible stuff. Forget the terrible stuff except for that Voyager episode when they went too fast and turned into lizards. That episode is too unforgivably stupid to forget.

I have to disagree with him though. There is no saving Star Trek at this point. Star Trek has irredeemably jumped the shark. After Star Trek: Discovery promoted itself by having a character claiming a planet with a shredded battle flag. After Star Trek: Lower Decks descended into the gags we fans lamely thought up for ourselves forty years ago (sealing a crewmans ass closed with Starfleet’s medical equipment? Has that joke showed up yet? I’ll bet it has) These shows make Star Trek: Enterprise look like high drama now.

I know, I know, there was a post I wrote that responded to a suggestion that Star Trek jumped the shark way back at the beginning of this blog:

…and I went on a few short years later to declare Star Trek dead all on my own:

However, like most things, there remains still more to say on this subject. There is a reason that Galaxy Quest is considered one of the best Star Trek movies (in the top ten) a reason that the riffs on the ideas first presented in Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry seem to be spreading outside of science fiction television and are presented widely now as just the way people should try to be. That reason? Star Trek has ceased to be on the cutting edge of television and forward-thinking philosophy. It has become a myth that overshadows the current attempts to reclaim the glory that was 1966 Star Trek. A franchise destroyed by its corporate owner’s inability to understand what it was that made the show special:

Planet Money – How Desi Invented Television – January 22, 2021

I’m not just talking about poor scripting or bad acting or stupid technobabble or whatever (Voyager lizard episode fresh in the mind now, thanks) Gene Roddenberry was part of a revolution that was not of his own creation, and Star Trek was one of the first new shows to come out of that vision of what television could really be if we gave it a chance. Desi Arnaz had a vision of making television in a way that had never been done before, and Gene Roddenberry had an idea for a show that would present people in a way that had never been seen before. They, together with the cast and crew of the 1966 Star Trek series, created something that has never been equalled since that time in television history.

None of the movies ever came close to being what TOS was when it aired. None of the series ever came close to equaling TOS in its effect on American society. No series since TOS has come close. This is a simple fact established in the number of myths that have moved out into society at large from inside the show and the fans of that show that was. Everything created since the 1966 series has been an attempt to recapture the essence of that show and harness it as a money making vehicle for its corporate owners. All of it has done nothing more than cement TOS as the only Star Trek worthy of being called Star Trek.

Everything since the 2009 Abramanation has represented a wholesale abandonment of Roddenberry’s philosophy for the future society the stories are supposed to be about. This betrayal was radically on display in Into Darkness:

…Where, not only does an admiral of starfleet fire on his own ships, killing his own crews, but he attempts to hold them hostage with terroristic threats. This is ironically the opposite lesson from the one we learned from Space Seed, the TOS episode that featured the character Khan seen recreated in some Mirror, Mirror version of himself in Into Darkness, the lesson being that terrorism no longer motivates individuals to comply with the demands of the terrorist in that distant future. That the knowledge that terrorists use our own emotions against us empowers us to defy our own emotional drives and makes us stronger than the terrorists could ever be. That lesson forgotten, the actors go through the same old cardboard cutout routines that they are paid to perform. The cardboard villain fails. The paper hero triumphs. The popcorn is stale and the sodas are flat, and I am no longer interested in the things that exploit my nostalgia for days gone by.

J.J. Abrams not even taking an interest in what kind of stories Star Trek had been about prior to his helming the 2009 movie shows itself in the works that he has created since 2009. Paramount’s insistence on treating the shows they’ve generated since 2009 as all equally Star Trek has driven off a lot of the original fans of the show. It is one thing to love Galaxy Quest and laugh at the good humored poking of fun at all things Trek from outside the Trek universe. It is another thing to consume this stuff that calls itself Trek and then continue treating it as if it is all worthy of fannish devotion.

My conclusion stated flatly? It isn’t worth the investment of time to even consume and then write criticisms of it, and I won’t waste even more time talking to people who think it is worth that investment of time. This is just more of the same from me on the subject of nostalgia. I don’t waste time arguing with Star Wars fans about the debacle that has been the Star Wars franchise since the beginning. There are other worthy subjects out there to spend time on, so I’ll do that instead.

Since this article started with my objections to a Babylon 5 meme, I want to point out that Joe’s worthy efforts to present his five year story arc failed in one important way. He had to fundamentally alter the story arc in season two in order to allow for the failing health of Michael O’Hare. Consequently the show did not end with the unavoidable destruction of the station and everyone on her at the time, as the arc was originally plotted out to end. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show right up to the point where Claudia Christian left at the end of season four. I felt season five was seriously weak tea, an interesting sideshow of events that had to happen in order to fill out the final season that Joe didn’t think he would be allowed to produce because of the way the show’s broadcast contracts were mishandled by the various television networks of the time.

Since we’re all about harvesting nostalgia for the good old days for its dollar value in the here and now, why don’t we try that with the second most influential series in television history? Babylon 5, the first of the long-form story arc multi-season shows that aired on television, the show that lead to the kind of scripting that you find in almost every single television series on the air today. Gone are the one-off shows that do not develop characters from episode to episode in a glorious never-changing now. The characters reflect on the things we’ve seen them do, and their previous actions are referenced in later episodes directly even if the stories themselves don’t flow from episode to episode seamlessly. Babylon 5 gave us that.

Let’s take that original Babylon 5 five year story arc and generate a new show with new actors that begins and ends the arc as Joe intended when he plotted it out and pitched it to the networks back in 1992. New scripts, new characters, same overarching story. Let’s do it just to show how malleable the narrative device is, how influential all the different parts that go into creating a show can be.

Maybe then we can understand just how Desi Arnaz was as influential as Gene Roddenberry was in the making of Star Trek, but less influential than the authors of the scripts and the actors in front of the cameras were. Maybe then we’ll understand what we sacrifice when we let people shake us down for nostalgia’s sake. At the very least we’ll get the conclusion to Babylon 5 that we were promised when we started watching it back in 1993. One that will look great on HD television, even.

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Another image from my lovingly maintained electronic shrine to Babylon 5, transferred from computer to computer since 1993. Image found available online here

Featured image: Star Trek’s Enterprise superimposed over a satellite image of Earth

Why 4 Patch?

The Wife recently suggested I rely on Patch.com for my local news. I was complaining about not having enough local news in my news feed, a common problem now that newspapers have gone the way of the dodo. When I first looked it over I thought/said to her “Ah. Another news aggregator like Nuzzel or Feedly. Just what I need.” …The Wife was annoyed at the observation and I closed the browser and all was right with the world that day.

The tab stayed open on the browser though, and over the next few weeks I would notice it and go “Oh yeah. That local news aggregator. I probably should check that out.” Then I would close the browser and all was right with the world again.

Today I open the browser and just for a lark I scrolled through some articles. The site immediately demanded I allow them to send me notifications. Every website does that now. I hate it, but it is accepted site behavior for some reason. I blocked the notification request and kept scrolling.

Then I opened an article. As soon as I did that the site pops up to ask me to join their newsletter. Again, I hate it but every site does this now, so I decide to bite on this lure and give them my email address. Of course that prompts them to tell me to create an account, and after creating the account they want me to verify my email address.

So I go to my email account and click on the verify link. Directly under that message is another message asking me to fill out a survey. The first question was “how likely are you to refer someone to this website?” Following my guidelines for ratings I say four out of ten because: a) I’m three tangents deep into a whim I engaged in while distracted and now I’m regretting the time investment; and b) I still haven’t read a single article on a website that I dismissed as “just another news aggregator” several weeks ago; and c) the site is every bit as demanding of my attention as every other site is these days and I don’t like being shanghai’d every time I sit down at the computer to look something up. A legitimate source doesn’t need to keep your eyeballs on the screen 24/7. A legitimate source is something you come back to without being prodded.

I’m dissatisfied so the rating is less than five. I’m still planning on reading the article so I’m not really that disatisfied. That’s a four. Now, take it or leave it Patch. That’s the answer you get at this juncture. I’ve got other things to do in real life and I don’t have time to write anything else today.

Use Our Website to Order!

It can’t even accept a feedback request.

I tried calling in to the Freebirds locations that I usually go to (Tech Ridge and Hancock) and they instructed me to go to the website to order because they weren’t allowed to take orders over the phone any more. There is a problem with this scenario, of having to go use the Freebirds website. The problem? The website sucks.

I’ll go through the order just to prove the point. I can’t order all three types of beans or multiple meats on the website. Maybe I want more than one kind of bean on my burrito. Maybe I’m in the mood for steak and chicken. I can get ancho on the side for the Daughter and extra chicken for the Wife, but there is no way to say extra pico for the one and extra lettuce for the other. We don’t want to talk about food allergies. That is a lecture too long for this feedback. It will require a second submission.

Use the custom field, I hear you saying. That would be a wonderful challenge for my communication skills since the custom order field is limited to forty-five characters. When Twitter limited me to 140 characters it was sometimes tough to get the right message across in one tweet. That was a challenge that I was willing to take on because the worst outcome was that my message was misunderstood and I would have to tweet a second time to try to clarify my statement. I wouldn’t have to pay for and then eat the resultant mess. A custom field of 45 characters means I have to write the order out in code, and I’ll be willing to bet that my code and your code will not match since the encryption/decryption key isn’t provided with the order form.

The problem of “go in the restaurant and order or use the website” is solved for me by going to a different restaurant. Going to a restaurant with a drive through or having food delivered from some place that answers the phone or whose website allows me to clearly and unambiguously order what I want from the menu. I love Freebirds burritos, but I don’t love them enough that I will jump through extra hoops, settle for something made in a way allowable by the kludgy website or risk my health during a pandemic in order to get Freebirds food. Lady Liberty is going to have to find another job if those are my choices.