Spring Break Short Story Recommendation 2022: “The Machine Stops”

As is my custom, I dedicate a few days each Spring Break to recommending and reviewing various short stories.  Typically, I read through an anthology of short stories over break and highlight three or four of the best stories from them.

However, I neglected to take an anthology with me when I left town for Easter weekend, and I didn’t have the time to pluck one from my parents’ substantial library.  So, I’m doing a one-off today (and possibly for other Spring Break Shorty Story Recommendation 2022 installments this week), although I am sure this story has appeared in many anthologies.

The story is E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” which I wrote about in brief in another post in April 2020, during the early days of The Age of The Virus.  The Z Man wrote about it in one of his posts from the time, which intrigued me enough to read the story.

It is, I believe, one of the great works of prophetic science fiction.  There’s a great deal of that from the mid-twentieth century; Forster was predicting things like FaceTime and social media in 1909.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Bicentennial Man (1999)

After many requests—from Audre Myers, not lots of different people—I am finally reviewing Bicentennial Man (1999), the film in which Robert Williams plays a robot, Andrew Martin, who wishes to become a human.  I picked up this flick on-demand on RedBox for about $4—a small price to pay to make Audre happy (and/or to appease her, depending upon one’s perspective).

When I announced I’d be reviewing this film last Monday, it engendered some controversy in the comments.  Regular reader and contributor Pontiac Dreamer 39 (now going by “Always a Kid for Today”) wrote:

Bicentennial man?! Crikey, Tyler, you’re going to need a lot of booze. I like Robin Williams but that film is dross. If you can get through to the end sober, I’ll be impressed. Personally, I’d have made Audre rewatch that film! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Audre predictably came to the film’s defense, citing its relevance in an age in which robots and artificial intelligence are growing increasingly sophisticated.  Ponty/AaKfT argued better films on the topic exist, such as Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece RoboCop.

You can read the comment thread for yourself, but after viewing the film (stone cold sober), I am ready to render my judgment on Bicentennial Man.

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Embracing the Dark Side… with LEGO

Regular readers will have surmised that, in spite being thirty-seven-years old, I am very much a kid at heart.  Often, I am also a kid in practice.

I was blessed to receive two incredible LEGO sets for Christmas:  the Imperial Shuttle (#75302) and the Darth Vader Helmet (#75304).  These sets are 660+ and 800+ pieces, respectively, and are probably the largest LEGO sets I’ve done.  I did have the legendary Black Seas Barracuda (#10040) as a kid, which is nearly 900 pieces, but I never built it—my older brother did.

Both of these builds were deeply satisfying.  I was sick with a low-grade fever and a sore throat (but tested negative for The Virus, no worries) the week after Christmas, and was generally enduring some low times besides the sickness, so I had plenty of time to dive into both of these kits—and was eager to do so.

Here, I’ll share some pictures of the builds, and discuss a bit of what it was like constructing them.

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Monday Mega Movie Previews

After a very long Monday, I’m taking a moment to write a post I promised earlier today.  Instead of my usual Monday Morning Movie Review, I’m offering up a preview of 100 films.

For Christmas, I received two massive collections of films:  Mad Scientist Theatre and Horror Classics, both put out by low-budget distributor Mill Creek Entertainment:

100 Horror and Mad Scientist Movies

Just look at those glorious covers.  What is going on with that hairy dude holding up a syringe full of a mysterious green substance?  Why is there a woman’s head covered surrounded by tubes in a tub of liquid?  Perhaps Dr. Fauci can weigh in.

Regardless, I’m super excited to watch these films—all 100 of them.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Lifeforce (1985)

I’m a big sucker—pun most certainly intended—for vampire movies.  I’ve always enjoyed the vampire mythos, and find them to be terrifyingly fascinating villains (or anti-heroes).  The concept of immortality in a fallen, ever-changing world is itself a haunting prospect, one filled both with opportunity and, ultimately, hopelessness.

I also love science-fiction movies, notably those that take place in space.  The sense of boundless adventure and the thrill of exploration combine with high-tech gobbledygook to make for some fun stories.  Sci-fi, like horror, also has the ability to be among the best social commentary put to paper.

With 1985’s Lifeforce, those two genres are combined in a pleasing, memorable way.  Indeed, the film is based on a novel called The Space Vampires, which gives the game away on the front cover.  The vampires of the film and the novel are energy vampires, sucking the lifeforce from their victims, luring them in by shapeshifting into the guise of what the human victim most desires in a mate.  In doing so, they turn their victims in ravenous husks who must feed on the energy of others to survive.  If they don’t, they explode into a puff of dust and ash.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Star Wars (1977)

The weather here in South Carolina has turned blissfully autumnal, which means we can finally partake in all manner of outdoor activities without dying of heat exposure and dehydration.  The humidity has calmed itself to a bearable level, and the mornings and nights are crisp and cool.

One of my enterprising neighbors—and most dogged constituents—took advantage of the cool weather this weekend to test out an inflatable projector screen.  He invited me to join his family for a private, driveway screening of the original 1977 Star Wars, later entitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.  Specifically, he screened the “de-specialized” version, as he called it, so there was none of the clunky 1990s CGI additions of the special editions.

In other words, it’s the way Star Wars was intended… before George Lucas changed his mind and decided to change his own films.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The Stuff (1985)

Shudder continues to deliver up the bizarre and unusual, proving it’s well worth the price of admission for the streaming service.  This last week saw the service bring the 1985 film The Stuff to the service.

It’s an unusual horror flick that combines elements of consumer protection advocacy, mass media advertising, consumerism, ruthless business tactics, and addiction into a blob of creamy terror.

Indeed, the film is something like The Blob (1958) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) rolled into one:  a greedy corporation knowingly sells a dangerous product, which turns out to be a goopy white organism that entire consumes the very people consuming it.

So, essentially, the entire flick is a metaphor for consumerism and corporate greed run amok.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Binge-watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has introduced me to some obscure and forgotten flicks.  Several of the films the freedom-loving Texan screens are deservedly forgotten, and even hard to watch, with only Joe Bob’s off-the-cuff rants and film history knowledge keeping me going.  Others, however, are real gems—rough-cut and a little sooty, but gems nonetheless.

One such film is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action-comedy starring wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  Piper is better known for his role in They Live (1988), the John Carpenter classic in which Piper’s character discovers a pair of sunglasses that show the world for how it truly is.  They Live—with its infamous six-minute fistfight—is the better film, but Hell Comes to Frogtown is really delightful.

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Supporting Friends Friday: photog

After honoring Mogadishu Matt last Friday, I figured I should pay tribute to my staunchest blogging ally, the venerable photog, proprietor of Orion’s Cold Fire.

I discovered photog after he ran ads on The Drudge Report, back before Matt Drudge sold out to the Bidenistas (photog is now a WhatFinger News man).  I’m still blown away that he had the cash on hand to buy ads on Drudge, which I think he told me was the result of having money to burn on his hobby.  Hey, more power to you, photog.

photog gets his lower-cased, e. e. cummings-esque nom de plume from his love of photography.  If you’re a shutterbug, he writes a number of technical articles about various pieces of high-end camera equipment that he tests out.  If you’re like me and just want to see the pretty pictures, he has plenty of those, too.

In addition to photography, photog writes some hilarious and detailed reviews of everything from episodes of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek to classic movies, as well as science-fiction novels and country musicHe’s even written a review of a cheesy sci-fi flick for this blog.  My attempt at offering a little bit of something for every interest is inspired, in part, by his generalist approach to blogging.

But where photog really shines is his political commentary (I will hasten to add that his photography really is great; I hope he publishes a book of his nature photography soon).  He writes broadly on everything from the importance of family to Deep State perfidy to what conservatives should do in a world that wants us destroyed.  I often find myself agreeing with his conclusions.

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