Monthly Archives: August 2009

I’ve just remembered! (An Addendum to Tomes and Talismans)

In reference to my final analysis of Tomes and Talismans:
I have just now remembered the Economics-based educational series from about the same period. The one I mentioned not remembering aside from the fact that I didn’t like it. It was called — I swear I am not making this up — “Econ and Me”. It involved some kids and their magical imaginary friend Econ, who taught them about economics. And the theme song buggers the imagination (I realize that the expression is “beggars the imagination”. You haven’t heard this theme song. It is running through my head right now, sodomizing my corpus callosum). The refrain went something like “Econ! Let me tell ya ’bout Econ! Econ! And Me!”
This show was apparently so worthless that even YouTube has the good taste not to contain copies of it.
Which is a good thing, because I’d probably be strangely compelled to watch and recap it.

Space-Madness! (The Starlost, Episode 4)

Episode four of “The Starlost” introduces us to the crew of The Pices, one of the Ark’s little survey vessels. The crew has been away for ten years and has been out of contact, and is very surprised to learn that the crew are dead. Given that the crew have been dead for hundreds of years, I suspect that this episode is going to try to convince us that the crew of the Ark did not understand the concept of special relativity.
Everyone piles aboard the Pices and takes a spin around the ship to survey the damage. Then, for some reason, the captain and one of the hot chyk crewmen fall asleep. The other one babbles something incoherent about “space senility” and does the same.
The captain dismisses their claims that the accident happened hundreds of years earlier, since it’s coming from a bunch of Space Amish, but they also seem a little weird. “Time does funny things in space,” the captain explains, and implies that they’re tired because they’re old.
Eager to find their families, they rush back to the crew area, where they meet a small family who don’t know them, but after pushing the old folks a bit, they manage to drag out of them that they’d heard of a ship called the Pices, from a very long time ago.
On the trashed bridge, Anton La Vey explains the mission of the Pices (and for some reason gives its size in “Jewbic Meters”). Despite the captain’s admonishment, the cuter of the two bridge bunnies has the computer verify that they’ve been gone 400 years, and we finally get it explained: the captain had ignored some warnings about their trajectory, and they set off using some bad navigational data, which resulted in them experiencing more time dilation than they’d expected: once the Ark lost contact, they’d been unable to sync their clock to the Ark, and as a result, they’d accidentally accelerated to near the speed of light without noticing (Which is not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds. If you just lean on the gas in a space ship, and keep the pedal down for a few years, you’ll just keep accelerating, and once they lost sight of the Ark, they couldn’t calculate their speed relative to it).
The Pices crew gets increasingly morose about their predicament, though the more-hot chyk takes a shine to Garth, and the less-hot chyk does The Creepy Sci Fi thing where she speaks from a position of the gender views of the period that produced the show. So, 800 years in the future, a space pilot thinks that being a happy homemaker with no skills other than cooking, cleaning, and sewing is really a better life for a woman than hers. (Also, the captain’s wife is recognized by the computer as Mrs. (Captain’s full name).)
The captain has another episode, and Anton La Vey diagnoses him as space-senile: doomed to have his mental age rapidly increase due to the time dilation. They’ll promptly have the minds of 400-year-olds unless they return to their previous time dilation.
As they all have a cracking good party to enjoy their remaining time, they watch the Pices’s logs, and see “an unidentified class G solar star” — which turns out to be the star which the Ark is going to strike. I guess a “solar star” is different from the other kind. The bridge bunnies decide to steal the Pices and shoot Devon with a phaser set to “Gurn”.
They reckon that their best bet is to go back to Earth and hope that there’s some of it left. While the captain objects in principle, he also objects in the pragmatic sense that he doesn’t think they have enough power to go back to Earth. Devon distracts them for a minute and pulls out one of the Orange clipboards on the wall reactor cores in order to send the ship off balance. For some reason, the bridge bunnies become compliant after this, and happily pilot the ship back to the Ark.
They drop our heroes off and then decide to bugger off themselves, since a slow death in space beats space senility and the chance to help save the rest of humanity.
Good riddance, frankly.

Now *That*’s a Baltar I can believe in! (The Starlost, Episode 3)

Episode Three finally grants us the John Collicos we’ve been waiting for. He plays a smarmy evil guy, which I know is a stretch for this actor.
Arriving in Omicron (a dome to which they got directed by the frozen guy), our heroes get captured by guards, who totally freak when they discover Rachel’s boobs: this is a society that did away with women centuries ago during a great catastrophe, and have had to subsist on artificial gestation ever since.
John Collicos, the local despot, explains that everyone thinks Rachel is the reincarnation of their goddess, and while he’s far too canny to buy into that, he does realize that it would be excellent political capital if he married her, especially since he’s a tyrant in the old-school sense of the word: he’s only allowed to rule so long as he kills anyone who challenges him to single combat (hint hint).
Unfortunately for Devon, what few books weren’t burned are now strictly limited to the local priestly caste, who won’t let them read, even though they do let him and Garth hide in their temple.
John Collicos makes his plans to marry Rachel. He quite likes this talk of “love” that she keeps going on about, but he wishes she wouldn’t say it around other people, what with it being a scary alien concept to their all male society.
The Original Baltar also has a weird homoerotic moment with the head priest when he says “A man who spends part of each day on his knees can’t be all bad.”
Though the priest has forbidden them to see the holy texts, one of the lesser priests can’t help showing off some of the work he’s done interpreting the writings, which makes Devon and Garth realize that a bunch of dense technical writing is sufficiently mystifying to a couple of Space Amish that even if they did get to study them.
The head priest manages to negotiate with Quinn The Renegade Alien to have Devon and Garth exiled instead of executed, but in return, he agrees not to prevent the marriage.
Collicos makes some smarmy stabs at convincing Rachel that he’s in love and can become a good person with the love of a good woman. She points out that she would totally challenge him for the throne if she were a man, and Collicos weirdly replies that she would be the man he feared most.
Fortunately, Devon and Garth storm in, having convinced the palace guard that their beloved governor is forcing the goddess into marriage. Unfortunately, John Collicos’s creepy homoerotic posing and shouting makes the captain of the guard wet ’em, and when they back down, Devon does the thing they’ve been telegraphing all episode in addition to showing in the pre-title teaser: he challenges John Collicos to single combat for rulership of Omicron. John Collicos is compelled by local law to accept, and they fight using the traditional Vulcan Omicron stick-with-weighted-ends weapons while the Kirk vs Spock Fight Music Starlost Fight Music plays.
Devon gets totally owned, because he is a simple farmer, while John Collicos is the tyrrant who rules by force, but then he for no clear reason just turns around and sort of grunts a bit, and Devon takes this opportunity to hit him in the head.
Under the code, Devon may now kill John Collicos by cutting his head off… With… The… Weighted… Stick. But, of course, Devon is a TV hero, and refuses to kill him, instead letting Collicos live, shamed by his defeat.
Instead of the governorship, Devon asks to see the writings and be allowed to leave in peace. John Collicos points out that he is entirely untrustworthy and will not keep to this agreement. But as he’s just been publicly shamed and shown to be entirely vincible, he’s probably going to be busy fighting off every Johnny-Come-Lately who wants to kill him.
The ancient writings turn out to be entirely indecipherable, but when Garth mentions the Ark, the priests remember some ancient legends they have about avoiding a firey demise by going to the nether-regions of the Ark. Devon, who has read the script, concludes that this indicates the existence of an auxilliary bridge, presumably in the ship’s ladyparts.
John Collicos, having reasserted his dominance, shows up to capture the heroes just as they make good their escape, but then for some reason lets them go: much to his surprise, he’s found that this whole “Love” thing is not entirely unpleasant, and, knowing that Rachel loves Devon and not him, doesn’t want to force her into marriage any more. Moreover, despite the fact that, logically, he must have just murdered half his palace guard, having been publicly shamed by Devon twice in one day has given him the idea that it might actually be fun to try a new style of governance which isn’t based on killing anyone who disagrees with you. Public shamings might work even better.
Much like the public shaming I feel now for having spent another hour of my life on this show.

Not even the Dewey Decimal System Can Save Us Now! (The Starlost: Episode 2)

In episode 2, The Head of Anton La Vey directs our heroes to the medical section, where the lose Garth when attacked by some Wipers. Rachel and Devon find out from another La Vey head that the medical section houses cryonically suspended engineering teams. Rachel thinks that the chair-activated La Vey head is the funniest thing she’s ever seen. Now, the La Vey head is very funny. Not the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but then, I’m not Space-Amish.
They wake up the first engineer they can find, and then discover that he’s dying of “a radiation virus”. Garth tells the Wipers all about Cypress Corners, which impresses them so much that their leader, Burgess Meredeth, wanders off to think on the viability of taking it over.
The engineer comes to terms with his impending death and the semi-doomed situation the Ark is in, and then reveals that he’s entirely the wrong sort of engineer, being in communications.
The Wipers attack sickbay, and under the engineer’s instruction Devon and Rachel incapacitate them using sedative vials from the first aid kit. This works because in the future, sedative vials all have a self-destruct feature.
Meanwhile, the engineer asks La Vey if his wife is in suspended animation. He doesn’t know, but has a “videotape” recording for him. La Vey demands an access code, and the engineer doesn’t know it, but then discovers that it’s written on his shirt. When he does, La Vey reads him some numbers to type into the keyboard. Yes. He has to take dictation from the computer. And the La Vey computer head even gets impatient with him when he fumbles the numbers.
The code makes La Vey’s Interrociter show a video tape of his sad wife explaining that she wanted to join him in suspended animation, but couldn’t get tickets, but she’s sure that they’ll find a cure eventually and thaw him out.
She’s wrong, of course, but hey. He finds this sufficiently disappointing that he just sits down and prepares to die. Before they refreeze him, he explains that “There are books and stuff all over the ark. Find some.” Thanks. This may be useless advice, but hey, they woke him up, brought him to death’s door, and told him that his wife was dead. He owes these jokers nothing.
He does propose that the Wipers might be the degenerate descendants of the guards who used to patrol the corridors and suggests that they persuade the Wipers to move into a disused dome nearby, as they might find it to be a real nice place, and therefore not be total douchebags.
The big dumb Wiper shoots their leader with Garth’s crossbow. Possibly on purpose, I can’t tell. But Devon re-enacts the story of Androcles and the Lion, and patches Burgess Meredeth up, which in turn makes him receptive to their suggestion of moving to somewhere nice and agricultural. They show them a nice matte painting of a prairie, and the Wipers all wave a happy good-bye as Devon locks them in.
NB: This episode had less than the promised quantity of John Collicos. He’s in next week’s preview too.

Stephanie Meyer, give vampires back their balls.

This movie.
This phenomenon.
It fucking blows.
You’re not going to get my usual detailed recap, because this movie just fucking sucks and I feel bad for just watching it. But I know I should watch the whole thing so that I am properly qualified when I go off on insane rants elsewhere on the internet about how much this movie sucks. So you’re just going to get some highlights.
Below the fold…

Continue reading

Amish… In… Space…. (The Starlost: Episode 1

Fresh from my experiences with Tomes and Talismans, I decided to Netflix a series I had never heard of until it cropped up in a cross-reference to a wikipedia article I was reading.
The series is, I believe, a post-apocalyptic Canadian space opera from the seventies. The internet tells me such talent as Harlan Ellison, A.E. Van Vogt, Frank Herbert, Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch, Alexei Panshin, Phillip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin were contracted to write storylines for the series. No one knows why they did this, because the series is a complete piece of shit. Sixteen episodes were produced, in which many of the expansive and amazing space sets were inserted via greenscreen rather than actually building any sets, a technique later to be adopted by shitty Star Trek Fan Films. (Fun fact: Several first season episodes of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier pulled the episode’s entire dialogue from episodes of The West Wing with the phrase “Mr. President” replaced by “Captain” and “The Senate” replaced by “The Romulans”.)
The creepiest thing about the show is how clean all the footage is. The soft focus of degraded VHS and NTSC color bleeding really do a lot to play down the terribleness of (a) cheap visual effects, (b) old video tape cameras that had no depth of field whatever, and (c) that is it is the 1970s. This is clear, crisp, and makes me remember why I can’t always tell the difference between Escatology and Scatology.
The first episode’s narration sets up the premise: Earth got destroyed eight hundred years ago. Humanity had buggered off on the Battlestar Galactica Ark, but th bridge got blown up, and now the Ark is gonna drift into a star unless our heroes can re-establish flight control.
That said, the bulk of the episode is a flashback triggered by our three heroes looking out a window at the vastness of space.
Seems these three are Space Amish, from the town of Cypress Creek. Only these Space Amish have zippers and a computer. So Space Mennonites I guess. Devon wants to marry Rachel, but Rachel is promised to his best friend Garth. Garth isn’t interested in Rachel, but he’s a respectful sort who will do as the elders order, unlike Devon, who has previously been censured for daring to ask questions like “Why does the sun come up in the morning and set at night?” and “Where does the water come from?” and “What’s Vietnam?”
The elder asks the magic 8-ball, some kind of computer terminal, just to make sure, and the computer announces that no, Devon and Rachel are not a genetically optimal match, and that the previously proposed marriage should take place.
Devon isn’t happy about this, and spies on the elders later, whereupon he discovers that the Magic Eight Ball, which the Elders introduce as the voice of the creator, isn’t actually making these pronouncements on its own volition: the elder inserts a microcassette recorder tape, tells the Magic Eight Ball what to say, and then orders it to translate from fakey archaic English (“Thou hast spake against the will of ye creator, and thou must pay with thy life”) into technobabble (“Genetic profile is incompatible with optimal conditions. Nonconforming element must be eliminated to return system to equilibrium”). Devon reacts by shouting to everyone that the ELders are faking it, without any evidence. So then he has to run away from the angry mob, through the DOOR TO THE FORBIDDEN ZONE. This leads to a crappy chromakey effect of him falling down a long tunnel, whereupon he finds an Interrociter from which the face of Anton La Vey appears as a computer program to answer all his questions, only in vague terms that don’t really explain much.
The Ark, it turns out, was designed to keep all these habitats isolated in order to preserve various aspects of Earth culture. Also, the whole “About to fly into the sun” thing. Anton La Vey can’t communicate with the bridge for a data update, so he orders Devon to.
Devon, instead, goes back to Cypress Corners, where he is decried as a witch, especially when he tries to explain what he’s seen to everyone else. The Eight Ball orders Devon’s execution, and the Elder thinks it would be a good idea to order Rachel to throw the first stone.
But Garth decides to bust Devon out of jail, on condition that he leave and never come back. Devon does, but Rachel goes with him. We’re told. She has like three lines on-screen. The crazy old guy who sits by the door out of the pod explains that, now that someone has been outside and come back safely, the evil elder’s total control over the village can’t last.
Garth decides he’s going to go out of the pod, kill Devon, and bring Rachel back. Because Devon is his best friend, and he doesn’t actually want to marry Rachel, and she clearly wanted to go. And also because most of the writers quit before production started.
While Garth tumbles down the bad special effect tunnel, Devon and Rachel pass through the giant oscilloscope toward the bridge. Garth catches up with them and demands that Rachel come back with him, on the assumption that she doesn’t want to be there. She says she does, but Garth doesn’t agree.
Since the other option is shooting them with his crossbow, Garth decides to tag along to keep Rachel safe until he can take her back to Cypress Corners and marry her against either of their will. The oscilloscope, which is a security checkpoint, lets him pass in spite of the crossbow, leading to me concluding that the whole security checkpoint thing was just a waste of our time inserted to show off the shitty oscillosope effect.
They reach the bridge, saving the ship, and ending the series. Well, not quite, but they do reach the bridge, which isn’t so much “destroyed” as “roughed up a little bit”. As they stand in front of a chromakey matte painting of the bridge and look out at a chromakey matte painting of the vastness of the Ark and space beyond it, the scene from which this flashback began, they are awestruck and get to see a star approach so rapidly that there is no reasonable way that the ship will not be immolated in the very next episode. Though it then stops and hovers off the starboard beam to give them at least a season to sort it all out.
The continuity announcer makes some dishonest promises of excitement and adventure to come, which appears to include a guest appearance by John Colicos.
I. Can’t. Wait.
(Disclaimer: I can totally wait.)

Please listen to our menu options as they have recently changed

When I was in school, being caught on-campus with a cell phone was serious trouble. By which I mean not “They’d take it away,” or “You’d get detention,” but rather, “They would call the police and you would be arrested.” This rule, which seemed stupid even at the time, was a product of what was even then an earlier age, when pagers and cellular phones were possessed only by medical doctors, high-powered businessmen, and drug dealers. Since high school students did not fall into the first two categories, the law felt it was safe to assume they fell into the third.
Now, rules this simple sadly do not work anymore, if they’d ever worked in the first place, which they do not. As our civilization changes, the rules have to get increasingly complex. Even in my time, the existing rule of “Do not bring a cell phone or pager onto school grounds,” was problematic: there was a surprising population of seniors who were registered as volunteer firemen, and while they didn’t need pagers at the school proper, they did need to have them in their trucks, which were parked on school grounds, and they might reasonably need to carry them to afterschool activiites.
There’s a balance that needs to be stuck. There are uses of phones that plainly ought be allowed: “Hi, this is your father. I need you to call your mother and tell her that I’m okay but the plant just exploded*.” “Mom, help, the teacher just spontaneously combusted,” and those which plainly ought not be: “What’s the answer to number 5?” “Hey, want to see some naughty pictures of me?**”, but between these two extremes is a large gray siberia-like wasteland.
In the land of Kalamazoo, as reported by, for instance, they have ot grapple with nagging parents who call during the school day to check up on their spawn, in what I can only assume is an attempt to publically shame them by having mommy call in the middle of shaking down a freshman for his lunch money.
This is a hard problem for any school, and you might be compelled to feel heartfelt sympathy for them, but fortunately, the teacher’s union helps out by saying one of those things that reminds you that schools are basically run like a combination supermax prison and third world dictatorship:

Cell phones also can “lead to behavior and school-climate issues,” Lambert said. “You can have an incident at one end of the building and it gets instantly communicated to people on the other side of the building, which can just add to the turmoil and exacerbate the problem. That can be a real distraction.”

Because nothing is more antithetical to the scholastic process than the free flow of information, and nothing is more essential to smooth school operations than to assert total control over all routes of communication. I mean, why even bother censoring the school newspaper and banning blogs if the students are just going to text each other whenever something bad happens?

* Incidentally, the day I received this call, I checked the news sites on the internet. The first one to pick up the story noted that there were no indications that this was a terrorist attack.
** I am not entirely sure that this use plainly ought to be verboten, but I think it might be safer to err on the side of restricting it to outside of school hours.

Who wrote the book of love, and what is its call number? (Tomes and Talismans, Concluded)

The really remarkable thing about Tomes and Talismans is that, aside from the stilted dialogue, this show isn’t really all that different from my memories of pretty much all science fiction of the period. Cheaply made, exposition heavy, absolutely certain that the future was going to consist of people in brightly colored polyester fighting people in filthy rags.
Abacus escapes the sewers just in time to hold up the amulet, which reflects the Wiper stun gun rays back at them. They collect a dropped gun and head for the library.
Now, I want to point out that the previous episode was about maps. They showed us a map, and indicated on it where Dad was, where the library was, and where the base was. Dad was not between the two. He was in the opposite direction.
Back at base, Athos and Variant sort out what Mythology is all about. This has got to be a tough concept for them, since fiction is a new concept for Users, and Mythology is, according to this show, a sort of mixture of fact and fiction, being true stories which had been passed down over the years having pieces forgotten or invented. They decide to try skimming.
Colonel Hogan (Hogaaaan!) and Abacus make it back to the library, where he and Bookheart share a “I would like to reindex your card catalog,” look with each other, but then quickly regroup over the MacGuffin. Here, Bookheart teaches Athos to scan, rather than skim, to find a specific topic. They talk quite a lot about the importance of scanning, looking quickly for specific keywords. This turns out to be a wasted effort, since they’re scanning for the keyword “battle” which is the first chapter of the book.
Bookheart next gets to explain notetaking, another topic the Users have no knowledge of. The basic gist here is that while the Users are intelligent, even obsessive over fact-collection, they come from a culture that uses computers and databases, and therefore have no cultural understanding of the need to organize information for sequential access.
Of course, the best thing about this is that Tomes and Talismans neatly destroys its own point. In just twenty short years, real life has taught us that the Users have it right: their system won. Computers, random access of data, they’ve basically obsoleted most of these library skills. As it turned out, library skills aren’t valuable in and of themselves, they’re useful as a way to overcome the fact that pressed dead tree is a terrible way to store information for easy access. This is basically what I said about the demise of newspapers. There’s nothing inherently good about traditional print media (It still edges out computer screens in terms of suitability for reading large amounts of text, but that’s a limitation of display technology, not some kind of universal inherent good about ink-in-tree-carcass), and it basically takes The destruction of human civilization to render those library skills really relevant. While the Users back at base are starving to death, these kids are running around pulling out encyclopedias and almanacs and dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?). If they’d had a local mirror of Wikipedia in the library’s computer instead of a musical montage about how to use the encyclopedia, this series would be about nine episodes shorter.
I’m pretty sure that this show was made to early for it to be a reactionary fantasy, but I could totally see it as one: Think your precious computers will save you? Well you’ll regret forgetting about the Dewey Decimal System when the apocalypse comes! Frankly, if it takes the Eschaton to make traditional library science relevant again, I think my time would be better spent taking a class in how to grow my own food.
(And I say all this despite being quite fond of libraries.)
Anyway, the Wipers are getting worried, because first they saw a horse, and now the ones who got stunned are reporting that the Users are armed with a blood-red stone, and their leader, Homer Simpson Humbuckler (Humbucker?), orders the destruction of the User base.
Meanwhile, thanks to their new skill of Skimming, Scanning, and Notetaking, the library gang has discovered that Wiper legend tells of a great battle in Alpha Centauri, where a giant half-man-half-Clomatt waving a blood-red stone emerged from a cloud and scared off all the Wipers. Alpha Centauri is the Users’ home star system, so they suspect this is the ancient battle where their people somehow defeated the Wipers, via a method which modern Users don’t know, because a generation or two ago, they removed the article from their database for lack of Notability. They find a Wiper-English dictionary to look up what a “Clomatt” is, but the audience doesn’t need one, since the Wipers have been using the term to refer to horses for eight episodes now. Athos realizes that a half-man-half-horse is a centaur, and as they’re from the Alpha Centauri system, this must be the redacted chapter from their history.
Since there’s a book on holograms in the Wizard’s Reading List, Colonel Hogan (Hogaaaan!) realizes that their goal should be to create a hologram of a centaur holding a ruby, and project it on a cloud. Unfortunately, their book is a few years out of date, so the kids rush off to learn how to find information in the Periodical section, which fortunately points out an article on holographic animation from a late issue science journal.
Athos studies the Vertical File, the weird bit of the library where you stick random stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else (Seriously, does anyone know what the hell a vertical file is for?), and also finds a card catalog entry for a newspaper, so we get to learn the most useless of the library skills taught in this series: how microfilm works. This really impresses Athos.
Colonel Hogan (Hogaaan!) shaves, and awkwardly indicates to Bookheart that he would very much like her to inspect his audiovisual section, but he is cardstock-blocked by his daughter, who has found a magazine article indicating that they may be able to lure a horse to them by tossing the Colonel’s dirty laundry nearby. He takes Athos out to do this, and they happen upon the Wipers, who are preparing their final assault on the base. Which is still in the opposite direction.
Athos and the Colonel return to find Bookheart tracing a slide image of a horse (Tee hee. Slides in the future.), and Hogan (Hogaaan!) utters the best line ever: “Athos and I spitted Wipers outside while planting my underwear.” Since episode 12 is about audiovisual media, Bookheart explains that some libraries catalog those separately, but not this library. As this is the last existing library on earth, her statement is not strictly accurate. She also teaches the kids the difference between film and videotape, a useful skill in the twenty-third century.
Hogan (Hogaaan!) needs her to show him how to handle a film camera, and for once this is not a euphemism. Except that they do have a moment during which he totally wants her to handle his film camera, but the fat kid places a hold on the book he wanted to check out. The Colonel gets very annoyed at him. Abacus wanders off to look at clouds, carrying on the tradition of really stupid, reckless children in television. She finds the horse, and the Wizard appears to her, giving her another clue — a sort of terrible one that they resolve to “the secret word is Athenium (It’s Greek for “Library”)”. Bookheart has gotten snippy and irritable, because she has become aware that she hasn’t gotten any in over a century. As they prepare to make their hologram, the kids also find a camcorder, and decide to film a documentary about their adventures, in case they fail and die, in the hopes that future visitiors to the library might learn from it, and do better than they did. You know what that means: recap clip show.
On the way up a nearby mountain to project their hologram, God The Universal Being appears to them again, this time giving them a copy of the script properly cited research report on their work. They get set up, and there is nothing left to do but wait. Which they do. No one will be seated during the thrilling “waiting” sequence.
At last, they fire up the projector, and a 2-D video toaster matte shot of Hogan (Hogaaan!) moaning “Athenium” appears in the clouds. The Wipers watching the magnetic shield controls freak out and run away. letting the controls overheat and crash, and the advancing Wiper army (six drunk fat dudes) run like hell.
With the shield down, they re-establish communications with the rest of the galaxy, and announce that the Wipers are defeated, because apparently, this dozen or so drunk angry rednecks are the entirety of the force that invaded earth.
They take Grandmother Nikola Tesla back to the library, where they recap the entire series again to he over a slice of watermelon. Then, after that, they watch hilights from their documentary again. This is why you really need to have approximately the same amount of airtime as story. The plot of this episode was about four minutes long.
They sheepishly discover that “The implosion of the magnetic shield must have caused a dematerialization vortex at their headquarters,” which wither beamed the Wipers randomly to other planets, or just killed them. It’s not really clear.
At the last minute, a conference call from the Human descendants, who thank the users for getting rid of the wipers, and are therefore coming home. They are so greatful that they promise not to obliterate the Users from orbit. Bookheart says that Humans and Users have already started in on a beautiful friendship, and gives a longing look to Colonel Hogan (Hogaaan!) indicating that she’d like him to help her shelve something in the stacks…
You know, despite the fact that this series was, frankly, shit, it holds a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so far as I know, it was the only Science Fiction Single-Topic Educational Series that aired in my youth — there were a lot of series in this general format, shows about reading (the seminal Canadian series “Read All About It”), and about math, and about anatomy (I think it was called “The Body Electric” and the main character worse a body stocking printed with a cutaway view of where all the organs go), and about economics (I can’t remember the show about economics very well, but I know that there was one. I didn’t like it) and about art, but unless you count Read All About It (Which was really closer to Fantasy), none of them would qualify as science fiction. And on rewatching as an adult, I’m really struck by some of the thought that went into it. There’s some things that seem strange for a kids’ show. In a thirteen part series about library science, there’s some very real and candid threat of death, the implied genocide of the Wiper race at the end, heck, the freaking Eschaton, even a hint of romance. Were the writers really cleverer than I thought? Maybe, or maybe, as someone on ifMud once pointed out, the writers are just human beings, and as such will occasionally hit on something authentically human just by virtue of the fact that we humans think like humans.
Still, “Post Apocalyptic Library Adventure.” There’s a tagline for you.
And don’t call me Shirley.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel I’ve Got An Overdue Library Book (Tomes and Talismans, Continued)

Episode six opens with dad on the run from the Wipers. They’re just about to shoot him with their futuristic hair driers and caulk guns, but freak the hell out and run away. Back at the library, Athos looks up the encyclopedia in the computer, which is very meta. He is treated to a musical montage about all the things you can look up in the encyclopedia. Now, encyclopedia is an awkward word to fit into the meter of a song. As far as I know, Jiminy Cricket is the only person to ever successfully do it. Also, she radically mispronounces “Zaire” (She says “Zar”) and Emile Zola. Athos looks horrified.
Back at base, one of the Users has prepared a powerpoint slide showing how their food supply (measured in “Quark pods”) decreases linearly over time (in “lunens”) He is praised for conveying the information clearly, and is given the honor of being the first one they eat after their inevitable turn to cannibalism.
Abacus has been reading The Story of the Amulet, since it’s an engaging story even though her base is under seige. Athos finds this a waste of time as much as I do, and draws a chart to show her how many pages of book they need to get through in order to read all the books on the wizard’s reading list. It seems that Users have a knack for charts, even though they then explain what a chart is, indicating that this too is a novel concept for them.
Dad, whose name is Colonel Hogan (Hogaaaaan!) calls in. By which I mean, he transmits, “Abacus, this is your father, Colonel Hogan.” Now, I thought that this was a silly thing to say, but then, we’ve only met their father and grandmother, and I haven’t seen any other adult female Users, so maybe they’ve got two daddies. He’s hungry, so Miss Bookheart directs him to smassh a small nearby hard-shelled object, which she thinks is a nut. It turns out to be a watermellon, because Colonel Hogan (Hogaaaaaan!) is terrible at describing things. He finds it delicious, at which point my beloved Leah, who has never seen an episode of Power Rangers SPD proves that she’s spent too much time around me, by adding, “And buttery!”
As dad hides from the Wipers, Athos forgets that he’s got a magical headband that lets him define any word, and has to be taught about the dictionary. From this, he deciphers the wizard’s message (‘To elide the buckler, these tomes offer succor’) as “To destroy the shield, these books offer help,” and from this, he draws the conclusion “This means that these books offer help to destroy the shield!” Really, Bookheart ought to have shown him the thesaurus.
I spoke too soon — Bookheart has the same idea, and whips out a thesaurus to translate the rest of the clues into something less florid.
Back at base, there is great concern over the food supply, because they haven’t eaten in minutes. Grandma Nikola Tesla wanders through the hall of street signs that they for some reason have, then sits down and reads The Macguffin, which contains the legend of how the Users defeated the Wipers in their prehistory. She eventually remembers that she’s got a ruby talisman necklace which I’m guessing is an old family heirloom. This is awesome, because the kids have just discovered, from the wizard’s summer reading list, that they need a ruby to use as an amulet to (this part they have not figured out yet), to something to do with horses and defeating the Wipers, and breaking the magnetic shield.
The next clue they try to address involves lasers, and since lasers are a sciency thing, it’s time to learn about other kinds of reference books, such as the science encyclopedia and science dictionary.
Meanwhile, Athos turns gaygayer and decides to put on a one-man-Shakespeare review. He’s looking to make sense of “the king’s familiar price.” I’m a bit ashamed to discover that I didn’t work this out until I was repeating it to Leah, several episodes after the clue was introduced. It’s pretty obvious. What are Wipers deathly afraid of?
While Athos learns about Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Variant and Fat Kid learn about Mythology, and Abacus has a heartfelt conversation with her father in comically stilted language. They’ve now solved this much of the puzzle: 1. A horse (my kingdom for a); 2. A laser; 3. A ruby; 4. A cloud. (They sort of glossed over that one)
I remember being very proud of myself when I sorted out what they had to do.
Episode 9 beings with Abacus and Bookheart reading a book on sewers, but when she’s left alone, she secretly pulls out a notepad and starts doodling. Athos needs to have a short lesson in maps, and Bookheart obliges. They direct Colonel Hogan (Hogaaaan!) to follow the railroad tracks. Because railroads are not library-related, the users do not need an explanation of what one is. For comic relief, the Wipers use a map too, only by “map”, they mean “monopoly board”.
Abacus needs an almanac, urgently. What is it? It’s a book of up-to-date facts giving the latest information for each year, but that’s not important now. She needs it because she’s theorized that the wizard’s clue is leading them to the possibility of using the sewer system to get back to their base and retrieve the Macguffin of Wipers On Earth Volume Three. Surely, you say, that’s not in an almanac. True, but if the population increased by more than ten percent in the years after the publication of the definitive book on local sewers, they’d have installed a new line which connects the sections of town between the library and the base. And don’t call me Shirley.
Because VHS tapes age poorly, we’re then treated to five minutes of dark blurs while either Abacus travels via the sewer to the User base, or Colonel Hogan (Hogaaan!)and the Wipers wander around in the dark.
Turns out that it was the former; Abacus pops up in the base, half-dead from her sewer crawl. After a lengthy recap, she asks to take back the copy of the Macguffin. Grandma Nikola Tesla immediately hands over the book, and throws in her ruby amulet, and sends her granddaughter to crawl back through miles of decaying sewers, because of a wizard. The Users are basically dumbasses.
Dad gets caught by the Wipers just as the century-old sewer system, which Bookheart mentions was built to be “cheaper to replace than to maintain” colapses on Abacus…