Thursday, December 11, 2014

Webizens and a Sense of Wonder

Faux Digression


I just can’t “get into” all the excitement about this futuristic "social interneting," not when my fellow “webizens” have let me down. I can't believe in them anymore.

Recently I saw the movie Alice In Wonderland. Then I found so many negative comment threads by so many mistaken people. Some of them, perhaps kids with low reading-comprehension skills, (on imdb) didn't comprehend the words on the screen: "Nineteen Years Later." Did they they blink? Did they fail to notice that Alice was a grownup? Why insist on the book version's "series of incidents" when the movie "sequel" offers plot and character development?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised when the democratic amateur web consensus is wrong. After all, the mass of movie critics on Google got it wrong too: Many said the movie lacked the “heart” of the books. Heart? Were they copying each other? Forget the mob. It was left to an individual, a friend, to validate for me how the show had continuous humor and empowerment. I bought the soundtrack just for Alice’s “hero theme.”

The film was so good I found it hard to leave “Underland” when the credits rolled: Not nearly as bad as when leaving the peaceful nonviolent world of the original Star Trek, no shuddering sighs, but still… So it was “perfect!” when the Alice credits started with the “screeching” of Avril Lavigne’s song. The webizens, alas, “didn’t get it.” All they did, on the thread of comments I found, was complain about the screeching.

After Lavigne, during the ending credits, is a choir and orchestra, composed by Danny Elfman. While I valued an individual’s dense web page from “filmtracks” explaining Elfman’s music and lyrics for Alice, I discounted a thread where webizens denigrated a “mere composer” for daring to craft words. I hope other threads do value Elfman; as for myself, I found the lyrics to be like a poem, like an iceberg tip, representing the fearful time of initial adulthood. Adolescence is more painful, early adulthood is more fearful.

Of course, individual threads, like individual people, may be mistaken. What if I was to surf comprehensively? I did so for the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. This was when I hadn’t got to the ending yet myself; Christina and I were still catching up on DVD. I telephoned her.

“Hello Christina.”
“’Bad news. I’ve been surfing all over about the ending of BSG.”
“Remember the ending of The X-Files?
“Oh no!”
“Well it’s not that bad, but everybody’s angry. I thought I better warn you.”

Weeks later, when I got to the ending myself, I had to call her up again. I told her I really liked the final episodes, and so I must discount all those webizens. How frustrating. Again I valued an individual: I found a lengthy web posting by Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan. (And I printed it off for Chris.)


In middle age, I’m not surprised to find myself still liking that “crazy, disrespectable” fantasy and science fiction such as the movie Alice In Wonderland. My childhood was many years before Star Wars and country music were ever cool, still, I took it for granted I would never “grow up,” not for f & sf. Last year my brother Rob remarked he had really respected my “courage” for how back in elementary school I got the other kids to play “space” not sports.

Faux Digression

It was in elementary school, long before distrusting the web, that I learned to be skeptical of society and progress. I will explain. My school, built right after the war, had yellow wooden inclined desktops. There was a hole at the right for your inkwell, and a slot carved across the top to hold your pen with its messy nib. But during the war they had introduced ballpoint pens for bomber crews, so that’s what we used. Our teachers still used pen and ink, so did Mum.

We used the hole for our paste bottle. Occasionally a child would find a big feather quill on the school grounds and say, “Hey, I could use this quill for writing!”

Then “progress” came slinking in. First the yellow tops started being replaced by futuristic composite green tops. Cool! But then came newer green ones: First the holes started disappearing. …OK, I guess… Then the pencil slot went. Why? The green smooth ones looked so space age, but of course the desks were still slanted. Why have a writing desk with no way to set down your pen without it rolling off? It was a most curious riddle.

There was a riddle posed in the 1865 book that was… never answered. Generations have been frustrated, wondering at the solution. You hear it asked a few times in the movie:

Hatter: Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Here's my answer: Easy—Because they both have quills!

(You’re welcome.)


I can relate to Alice. Flouting society, we postwar kids were the first ones to be able to step out onto to the dance floor and just start dancing: No need to “learn how” first… “Do your own thing!” we proclaimed joyously.

And then there’s Alice, at age 19, refusing to be stifled by corsets yet having to dance a quadrille. It would be impossible for her to just dance a futterwacken- What would “they” say?

Ah, but don’t say “impossible” to Alice. The girl who favored the Hatter would also enjoy the old man in Edward Lear’s limerick:

There was an old man of Whitehaven
Who danced a quadrille with a raven
They said, “How absurd!
To dance with this bird!”
So they smashed that old man of Whitehaven

Yes, that’s just what “they” would do. Some folks are as dumb as—well, as dumb as webizens.

I wish her well. As Elfman ends his song:

“Please tell us so we’ll understand
Alice…Alice…Oh, Alice”

Sean Crawford
Still in Wonderland,
December 2014.8.27


~As for the lyrics, I think people of Alice's age tell each other their woes because at one level they miss not being able to tell their parents, and so there is comfort in the lyrics saying "us."

~Back when color TV sets were so new the department store salesmen couldn't set the colors right, back during the first season broadcast of Star Trek, Kirk asked Spock something like, "Didn't you ever dip a girl's pigtail in the inkwell?"

~ Speaking of the space age, this post was composed entirely by touch-type, no peeking, on a dvorak -not your mother's qwerty- keyboard: Today I finished my final "dvorak ABCD" lesson, by Babylon-5 fan Dan Wood, off the 'net. Hurray!

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