Friday, August 29, 2008

Groundhog Planet

You know the Bill Murray movie, where he's a network weatherman, and every day he wakes up on the day of the blizzard that isolates Punxsutawney (and yes, that IS how you spell that), and has to live the same day thousands of times over, and in the course of that time he transforms himself from the jerk to end all jerks into a nice guy, who Gets the Girl?

Yep, that's the movie. Of course you know it. Everyone knows it, and half the shows on TV have done "homages" to it. But here's the question to ponder ... is it the classic "chick flick," or is it a science fiction movie, where the cameras shut down about an hour before the sh*t hit the fans, world-wide, in a manner as dramatic as INDEPENDENCE DAY crossed with OUTBREAK?

I'm inclined to say -- the latter.

If your viewing tastes are as ecclectic as mine, you've probably seen essentially the same story on STARGATE, and STAR TREK, and several others. Not that Bill Riker is desperately trying to win the hand (fin, tentacle, claw, whatever) or this week's guesting humanoid (you notice he'll romance anything female, and species doesn't matter a darn in their world? It's gender that's the big taboo, still, even across the species line, four centuries from now -- don't get me started). But the "McGuffin" driving the story is the same.

In SF, it's called a closed time loop. When they did it in Trek (next gen variety), everyone dumped their RAM when the temporal field reset itself for the next go-around. But when they did it in STARGATE, there was a real, genuine Tardis-type phenomenon, which put Jack and Muscles slightly out of synch with the temporal shift, due to a weird alien hickey in the gate's wormhole generation mechanism and tarqet acquisition sequence, probably due to a power surge in the superconductors serving the ... yeah, right. Whatever.

The practical upshot of all this dazzling repartee is the Jack and Teal'c (see, I can spell that, too) are not only condemned to ride the 24-hour closed time loop until they can figure out how to get out of it ... they know they're doing it. They don't dump their RAM when the sequence sesets. They're aware of every tortuous moment of what's happening.

Like Phil Connors, that jerk of a network weatherman with more brains than manners. Yep ... GROUNDHOG DAY.

Now, get past the fact it was written, directed, produced, cast and acted as a chick flick. Look at it from the SF point of view. Bill Murray and Andie McDowell and company are stuck in a closed time loop, doing the same day maybe ten thousand times, before something, somewhere reset itself on a cosmic scale and the town of Punxsutawney (no, I didn't type that again; I'm using cut and paste in the interests of sanity) was allowed to get over the ruck in the fabric of spacetime and go on. Nice. Neat.

And here's where it starts to get interesting. If [ctrl-V] Punxsutawney was looping, out of phase with the rest of us, it would have absented itself from the rest of the timestream. In other words, it would have "done a Brigadoon," and vanished for years...

Did it? It might have. We never get to know this, because the picture is concentrating on the romantic aspect of the story. Bill and Andie are making nice and, having just gone ga-ga, they neither know nor care what's happening in the rest of the universe...

Meanwhile, just off-camera, fleets of US Army choppers, cargo planes, tanks, the lot, are converging on [ctrl-V] Punxsutawney (okay, I'll stop being twee), because as far as the rest of the planet knew, Punxsutawney had vanished like Brigadoon, three or five or ten years ago. Who knew which town would vanish next? Had Punxsutawney been spin-dizzied right out of here by space aliens? Had it been sucked through a wormhole into the distant future? Had it been destroyed? Would Washington or New York or (gasp) Los Angeles be next? Was this terrifying event happening in other parts of the world simultaneously?

Well, was it???!

And now, Punxsutawney just reappeared ... from a wormhole to the future, or another world? Are the people returning loaded with deadly interspecies viruses? Have they been infected with alien nano? Were they brainwashed by ETs? You KNOW the Pentagon would be down on them like a load of bricks. CDC would be in the, and probably also Dustin Hoffman's outfif from OUTBREAK (speaking personally, Dustin Hoffman can come 'round and take my bloodpressure any time he feels like it). The whole town of Punxsutawney would be under military lockdown. Gallons of blood taken for testing; CT scans of everything and everyone. Everything imaged. Everyone and his uncle psychoanalysed. Brain scans. Hypnosis, polygraph tests...

There's one other possibility in which Punxsutawney gets away scott free -- because there was no point going there with this three ringed circus ... because (!) the whole world was looping. The whole planet was stuck in a 24-hour loop. Civilians wouldn't have any idea anything had happened at all, when the ruck in spacetime smoothed out and let us go on, but --

Astronomers would know, because the stars themselves move over the course of years, albeit infinitesimally slowly, and measurably. So, about the time Bill and Andie are making nice at the end of the movie, the sh*t is hitting the fan globally. Was the whole planet hijacked by ETs? Have we been through a wormhole? To the future, the past, the other side of he galaxy? Did the Russians or the Chinese do it?!!! What happened to us while we were gone, that we can't remember? What was done to us, what were we used, or abused, for?! Are we the same people we were when we left?! How would we know if we were different?

In our paranoia, the globe's major powers would start arming themselves to the teeth, and ... oh, boy. The world goes nuclear, with ever gun aimed at the sky. Groundhog Planet.


Oh -- last note for today. Remember yesterday's post, where the very title was designed to capture the attention of the Googlebot searching blogs? It worked. Yesterday's post, entitled 'Gay Books: a title designed for the Googlebot' is, today, ranked #1 on Page 1 of the Google Blogsearch, and here's the proof, if you needed it ... click on this to see a full-size screen capture. It works. Not bad, to rocket from "nowhere in the top 100" to #1, in one shot...

Ciao for now,

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