Midweek Short Story Recommendation: “The Visit That Wasn’t”

Good old Terror House Magazine continues to publish some of the best short fiction being written today (including my own absurdist writing), and it’s my pleasure to recommend another story by one of their contributors, Adrian David‘s “The Visit That Wasn’t.”

The story is a short parable riffing on the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.”  Visitors to the protagonist’s land keep telling him how terrible and crummy the place is, and instead brag about the greatness of their home.

The glowing talk of the visitors’ homeland churns away in the mind of the protagonist, until he finally decides to pay a visit.  What he finds depresses and angers him:  nuclear war, corruption, violence, declining birth rates, normalization of pedophilia, famine, depravity, etc.

Feeling cheated, the protagonist returns to his own home, and realizes how much he took it and its charms for granted—but there’s a twist (I recommend reading the story, which takes about three minutes, for the full impact; twist revealed below).

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Aniara (2018)

What happens when a luxury transport ship on a routine voyage to Mars is thrown off course, set adrift on an endless voyage across the cosmos?  That’s the premise behind 2018’s Aniara, based on the 1956 Swedish epic poem of the same name.

The answer, ultimately, is quite bleak.  Aniara fits fully into the nihilistic ennui that Scandinavians—materially prosperous but spiritually adrift—relish so stoically.  Seriously, the Swedes seemed obsessed with existential crises and a sense of meaningless in life.  At its best, that gives us the likes of Danish Christian existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; at its worst, it creates the kind of mindless pleasure-seeking the passengers of the film’s title ship indulge in here.

For all the film’s depressing messaging about the futility of life (to be fair, being trapped on an endless voyage in space, eating only algae to survive, would be a fairly depressing and psychologically destructive experience), it’s a fascinating look into how a society might develop, survive, and perish in the depths of outer space.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: High-Rise (2015)

Lately Hulu’s algorithm—in the bleak future math problems determine our entertainment choices—has been suggesting tower-based movies to me.  Yes, it is a genre:  films that take place in the claustrophobic confines of apartment buildings, like the 1993 thriller Sliver, starring Sharon Stone and William Baldwin.  That flick was so-so, and the character motivations didn’t really make sense, especially the dashing computer nerd Baldwin portrayed, but it was one of several Hulu has recommended lately that depends upon a high-rise for its setting.

So it was the Grand High Algorithm suggested 2015’s High-Rise, a film both set in and an homage to the 1970s, specifically the dark sci-fi flicks of the decade.

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Morning Movie Review: Brazil (1985)

In continuing with last week’s review of The Empire Strikes Back—and this week’s unofficial theme of keeping posts light—I decided to jot off this quick review of a very good, very deep film, the dystopian dark comedy Brazil.

This film has been on my watch list for some time, and a timely RedBox 50% off on-demand streaming coupon made it a compelling rental for a Monday night.  It was well worth the $2.15; indeed, I may even watch it again tonight, just to catch details I likely missed the first time.

The basic premise of Brazil is to envision an excessively bureaucratic society, in which filing the proper paperwork and avoiding blame—the hallmarks of any bureaucracy—matter more than doing what’s right or decent.  Indeed, the highest good in the nameless society of Brazil is to keep the bureaucracy chugging along, and to wrap everything up in red tape.

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Dystopia

In my darker moods, I can’t help but notice in what a bleak future we live.  Sure, there are many elements of America that still exist, and some of which are strong, at least in some parts of the country.  But things like constitutionalism, rule of law, respect for wisdom, faith, and a great deal many other wonderful items are daily disrespected, ignored, and/or abused.

I’ve been on a kick lately of watching dystopian films, that genre—next to zombie movies—that Americans love best.  Last week I watched the 1974 cult classic Zardoz (starring an out-of-work Sean Connery), a film that shouldn’t exist given the nature of studio politics (it’s a rare example of a studio saying, “Make whatever you want,” and the director took it seriously).  I also watched the less classic Equilibrium (2002), starring Christian Bale.

Zardoz explores a distant future in which frosty, immortal, aloof, and bored elites, the Eternals, live in perpetual paradise while employing vicious, gun-toting Brutals to exterminate the excess population of Earth.  Equilibrium tells the story of a society, Libria—a mash-up of America and Britain, it seems—that, in order to prevent a fourth global war, outlaws all emotions, on the premise that art and literature inflame men’s passions to destructive degrees.

While it might not qualify as a “dystopian” film, I also viewed the Coen Brothers’ classic Barton Fink (1991), about the titular writer—a successful Broadway playwright who writes theatrical productions about, of, and for “the common man“—who cashes in on his success with a move to Los Angeles to write for Capitol Pictures, where he immediately develops writers’ block.  Fink is a 1940s Jewish intellectual who pontificates frequently about his desire to tell the grubby, realistic stories of everyday people, yet he keeps ignoring his shabby hotel neighbor, Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman who tells Fink repeatedly, “I could tell you some stories.”

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