The Mysteries of Time
Should Time Lend itself to Victory or Tragedy?
When Time Does Run Out
1. For Astroboy time runs out when he must sacrifice himself to save his loved ones.
2. For Shintaro time runs out when it becomes obvious that the only way to avoid killing all the ninja after him is to go away permanently.
3. For the Great Gatsby time runs out when a bullet ends his life and his dream of ever being with Daisy.
4. For Frankenstein time runs out when he discovers that his neglect of the creature he has created has turned his creature into a murderer.
5. For the young model in Snapshot time begins to run out when she discovers that one successful photo does not make for a modeling career.
6. For those ANZACs and Turks who died at Gallipoli during World War One their sacrifice has never been forgotten.
How Fiction Unfolds
The fiction that all religions based on one god are fundamentally the same has been with us for some time now.
The truth is that religions change over time. Some for the better and some for the worse.
The madness that was the Crusades is being played out in a somewhat different way by Islamic State.
In the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory much is made about time and not just in the title.
In one episode Sheldon quotes The Moving Finger from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khaytam. Translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald in 1859 it goes like this;
The Moving finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Strangely enough Jeannie also quoted from The Moving Finger in an episode of I dream of Jeannie way back in the 1960s.
Time can run out for the fictional hero. In fact in some countries it is expected.
Traditionally, for the Japanese, the hero must have a beginning, a middle, and an end to his story.The end is generally the hero's death. In the 1960s, Astroboy became popular in both Japan and in the West.
I had an Astroboy toy when I was a kid.
One episode of this animated series not shown on Australian television and possibly not shown in the USA, however, was the one where the boy robot had to fly into the sun in order to save humanity.
A freezing device was set to destroy all life on earth and the only way to deal with it was to take it where it could do no harm.
This meant Astroboy had to sacrifice his very existence for those he cared about.
Whereas ending the 1960s Astroboy television show this way might well have suited a Japanese audience, it was considered too grim an ending for an audience of Australian and possibly American youngsters.
The 1960s Astroboy was mainly in black and white. I say mainly because there was one episode made in color.
When it came to Shintaro - The Samurai a compromise with the West was struck. Shintaro would sail off into the unknown with his arch enemy, never to return.
Any Japanese watching this last episode would know that neither great swordsman would most likely survive. In the West, however, there was an unsatisfying question mark over this rather enigmatic conclusion.
Today, in countries such as Australia, Britain, and the USA, the happy ending is more often than not called for. In the past there have been exceptions such as in the writings of American author F. Scot Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, The Last Tycoon), and the movies based on his writings.
Nowadays many stories don't end with the death of the main character or characters but at a new beginning. And so you have the hero defeating the villain or villains and the world thus made over into a better place. This is typical of the superhero sub-genre.
From the 1930s and well into the 1950s there was Film Noir in which the situation for the main character or characters started off bad and spiraled downward.
Double Indemnity (1944), starring Barbara Stanwyck, is a perfect example. A man seduced by a woman to betray his company's trust ends up caught out.
The novel American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, came out in 1991. It had some of the elements of film noir in that the main character, Patrick Bateman, goes from serial killer with some control over what he does to serial killer out of control.
Throughout the book Bateman's sanity slips more and more until there is no real way of going back.
It ends with Bateman still a killer but now obviously protected by his position in New York society. We suspect he will continue to kill even though he now has regained some of his cold blooded control over his actions. He sees himself as much victim as murderer.
Throughout the novel the artificial nature of New York is underlined. In NSW, Australia, when the book first came out, it was decided that it should be wrapped in plastic and only sold to those who are old enough to handle R rated material.
In 2000 the novel was made into a film by the same name starring Christian Bale. In my opinion the film in this instance is superior to the novel it is based on.
In the novel The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter (1964) the main character, German World war One fighter pilot Bruno Stachel is allowed to slip into an alcoholic haze at the end of the book.
In the movie by the same name starring George Peppard that was made in 1966, however, he must perish in an experimental aircraft.
In France the tragedy remains popular. Their comedy is often regarded as the flip side to what is tragic. This view is very old, covering quite a few European countries, and has often resulted in making French literature and French films, such as Cyrano de Bergerac (originally a famous play), rather fascinating.
Betty Blue (1986), starring Beatrice Dalle, is the story of a wild, passionate and too impulsive woman who ends up dead in a mental hospital. There is, however, one ray of hope. Her boyfriend is writing a book about her and so her story may eventually see print.
There's the weird though somewhat romantic venture into consensual bondage, torture and slavery, Histoire d' O (Story of O) by Pauline Reage (1954) and Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel, La Planete des Singes (Planet of the Apes).
Certainly the plays of William Shakespeare that are tragedies are still well regarded. This is also true of certain plays and movies made by the British in the 1950s and 1960s.
These include Look Back in Anger by John Osborne (play 1956, first movie version 1959), and the film, Poor Cow starring Carol White (1967).
In Poor Cow you have a young woman with a young child living in a slum area. She had been associating with the wrong people for a long time resulting in a less than brilliant existence.
Then there's Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (1818) and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (1962).
In Frankenstein you have a knowledgeable young man involved in science and going beyond where humans were meant to go.
The results are murder and mayhem. Humans are not supposed to have the sort of power over life and death the baron sought as is revealed in this dark romance.
In A clockwork Orange there is the question of what is to be done about youth out of control. Is there a better way than lock-up? And what kind of society does, in fact, produce youth that does get out of control?
In Australia the tragedy of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler (1955) is still staged and the 1959 movie version, starring Ernest Borgnine, is still held in high esteem.
Then there's the 1961 novel Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook in which a young teacher finds himself in a nightmarish town and then on a nightmarish property. It was made into a film by the same name in 1971.
There is also the 1979 film, Snapshot, starring the popular Sigrid Thornton. Here a young woman is lured into a modeling career and from there on it's down hill.
The 1981 film Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson, touches upon Australia's first action in the First World War and the tragic results for those who participated in it.
Out of bloodshed, however, the ANZAC spirit was born. There are fictional elements as well as fictional characters in this movie but, even so, it is a well made depiction of important events in Australian history.
People Can be Improved Through Good Diet
Changing the Times and the People
Over the last couple of centuries there have been marvelous changes in the human race.
Better diet has resulted in people of the Western nations becoming taller.This has been commented upon in various British reality and documentary shows on housing.
Apparently homes built in Britain before the 20th Century were generally made for shorter people and therefore the ceilings and ceiling beams tend to be lower than what might presently be desired.
In early episodes of Doc Martin, for example, you see the Doc bump his head on an overhead beam in his home because the beam is too low placed for someone of his stature.
The Japanese have also become taller but in a shorter space of time. Again this is a matter of better overall diet. The diet of the average Japanese was not very good before, during and after the 2nd World War.
It steadily improved as Japan became a financial and Industrial power to be recognized.
Presently, there is an obesity problem spreading across the Western world. Fast food and lack of enough exercise has made the people of Britain, the USA and Australia generally fatter.
This has already led to widespread health problem associated with being overweight. Meanwhile there are signs throughout the world that there will be future shortages in food and drinking water.
Waste in the form of plastic products may in the end result in a world that looks too much like a great big garbage dump.
Strangely enough, there are people in the Third World making a living dealing with our industrial refuse. They, however, can only do so much and be presured by the West into only doing so much.
We are Trapped in Time
The End, My Friend
The End of Time
Most stories have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. This seems to be the natural flow of life. We are born, we hopefully mature and we just as hopefully meet with success.
Then there are the final years. Everything eventually comes to an end.
Right now our sun is middle-aged. There will come a time, eons from now, when our sun will die in a burst of energy and take planets and moon with it. This will include the Earth if the Earth hasn't already been destroyed.
This has happened before in other solar systems, with other suns. If humanity isn't out among the surviving stars well before the final moments for our sun come then it really will be the end of the human race.
Meanwhile humanity may be in its own race to end itself through pollution and overpopulation. Wars and disease can no longer do enough to reduce population to make up for birth rate.
There is, however, the possibility that new diseases or improved ones will hit in the next fifty to a hundred years, making survival for the greater humanity possible. What we can't seem to do for ourselves nature might still figure our ways to do.
The major religions can't help in reduction of human numbers since they are geared to a time in our collective past when humanity was low enough in numbers to be a worry. Now that it is too high, there's nothing in the holy books that can help and too much that can hinder.
'Be fruitful and multiply' will do more harm than good in the up and coming future. 'Be fruitful but don't multiply too much' would be a good replacement.
Time and the Writer
1. Have walking corpses terrorize the world and people will find new meaning in the subject of time.
2. Have Shakespeare write for television and see what happens to your concept of great writing.
3. Grant a criminal's wish to be in the past and see what comes of it.
4. Let a Japanese soldier who still thinks the 2nd World War hasn't ended loose on Gilligan's Island.
5. Send young space explorer Will Robinson back in time to Scotland and to a Scottish ghost then see what happens.
6. Have crew and passengers from our future land in a world of giants similar to Americans of the 1960s and see if they can survive.
7. Have a slide from one dimension into another, and put one of the characters face to face with a past he'd like to change, and see how he goes about doing so.
Time and Television
Stories that take the viewer either backward or forward in time or have altered our concepts of time altogether have entertained us for decades. There have also been new stories that have done as much.
It is not by accident that in the introduction to episodes of The Walking Dead there's an old fashioned pocket watch that goes out of control.
The seconds and minutes depart faster than one might expect them to, indicating that society has changed drastically and time, for those trying to find refuge from those who walk and eat human flesh, has either new meaning or no meaning at all.
Certainly humanity's survivors, in many instances, need to find food and shelter before it gets too dark if they are expected to continue to survive.
In the Western series Hell on Wheels there are north American Indians with the view that destroying those who are building a railroad will save their way of life. At best all they can really do is postpone the inevitable. We know from history that their way of life will come to an end whatever they do.
Embracing the white man's ways, however, is neither easy nor desirable.
In The Twilight Zone of the 1960s there were a number of episodes that touched upon the fourth dimension - time.
In one episode we are called upon to wonder how Shakespeare would get on if he had to write for television. In another, a man with a dodgy memory of his own past turns out to be an out of control android.
In an episode of Night Gallery from the late '60s, a modern criminal escapes present day justice only to find himself in the past, facing a much harsher form of justice.
In the Australian 1960s kids show, The Magic Boomerang, time could be made to stand still for all but the thrower of the magic boomerang. The effects, however, were only temporary.
On Gilligan's Island there were at least three episodes where time became an unusual factor. One had the castaways trapped by an old Japanese soldier who was totally unaware that the 2nd World War had come to an end.
In another, a dream Gilligan had throws him back to London at the time of Jack the Ripper. in yet another, the Island's millionaire dreams of being a prospector in the old West.
In an episode of Lost in Space, Will Robinson is sent back in time to make sure Doctor Smith gets on board the Jupiter Two before lift off from Earth. Apparently, instead of getting lost in space, the crew of the Jupiter Two will die without Doctor Smith's initial interference.
In another episode, Will Robinson finds himself in Scotland with a ghost and a flesh eating creature that was once human. The ghost uses his bagpipes to sooth the creature.
The Land of the Giants television series of the late '60s an early '70s had a crew and passengers of a spaceship accidentally end up in a world where they are miniature in comparison to the natives.
Strangely enough, the humanoid giants are similar to Americans of the 1960s in knowledge, dress and culture. The miniature space travelers happen to be more sophisticated, having come from a society futuristic to our own.
Having the giants similar to people of our Earth obviously meant that giant props, no doubt previously used in movies and on other television shows, could come into use on this show. The futuristic angle meant that the viewer could wonder what the stranded crew and passengers could do next in what was a rather hostile environment.
In an episode of Sliders (1990s television), where a group of Americans slide between dimensions in an effort to find their way home to their own dimension, it is discovered that time can indeed run in different ways between worlds.
Mallory, the inventor of sliding, finds a world where his younger self is about to do something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. In saving his younger self he is, in a way, saving himself from a decision he had made long ago on his world.
In another episode of Sliders, time appears to jump backwards. This can be quite confusing if one has already been jailed for a crime one has yet to either commit or see committed.
Another backward world visited was lawyer world where everyone is either suing everyone else or is a lawyer either for one side or the other. In such a place there's a lot of paperwork involved in the purchase of something as simple as a hamburger.
Of course a world where the USA is Red rather than red, white and blue might also be considered to be a planet that has gone quite a few steps in the wrong direction.
Thursday is Actually Thor's Day
Our time is generally measured in months and years agreed upon a long time ago by the Western nations. These agreed upon months and years are generally a compromise between Christianity and old pagan beliefs.
For example, in days we still have Sunday for the sun, Monday for the Moon, Wednesday for Wodin or Odin (the king of the gods), Thursday for Thor, the god of thunder, and Saturday for Saturn.
Easter is celebrated as a Christian holiday yet symbols that are still around, such as the rabbit and the egg, point to a pagan past.
The 24 hour clock is based on the rising and setting of the sun. Yet there are parts of the world where, at certain times of the year, it either takes much longer to rise or much longer to set.
Then there's daylight saving which is practiced in the USA and Australia. This seems to me to be putting the clock forward an hour or back an hour purely on the whim of government. It may aid big business. If people have an hour more of sunlight of an afternoon they may shop more.
Meanwhile the farmers milk their cows at the same time every morning whether you wish to call the time five o'clock or six o'clock.
Also, to the common worker, the change of an hour, one way or the other, is a jolt to the system that lasts a couple of days until they are jolted back again.
Lastly, daylight saving can confuse tourists when they move from one place without it to a place that has it.
One has to wonder what Phileas Fogg, from the novel Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, would have made of this 20th Century invention of the re-working time. Would he have still won his bet if it had been in force in the 19th Century? Certainly it might well have made his visit to the USA more hazardous and stranger than it otherwise would have been.
Films with Warnings about the Future
Movies about the Future
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Movies and Time
J'accuse was made during the First World War. By the time it premiered in 1919, this anti-war French masterpiece had soldiers in it that had not survived the final months of combat.
Hence there were images of dead men in J'accuse on the screen for all to see. This revelation brought cinema goers to tears.
Thus the difference in timing between the filming and the presentation had added to the importance of the work.
The message was clear. War on the scale of what had happened from 1914 to 1918 should never, ever happen again. Despite a remake of J'accuse in the 1938, there was, however, a Second World War.
There have been numerous fictional warnings from the future in films such as 1984, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Soylent Green, The Last Man on Earth, Omega Man, I Am Legend, and Farenheit 451.
In George Orwell's 1984 novel, which was first published in 1949, society is constantly at war and history is altered to coincide with what the leaders of society need those under them to believe.
Sex is made out to be shameful so that energy might be directed elsewhere. it is an evil future consisting of torture for those who refuse or find it difficult to believe, mind control and deprivation.
Big Brother is the symbol of belief and those whose beliefs are wavering are closely monitored.
There was an excellent television adaptation made in 1954, by BBC television, starring Peter Cushing which shook the British public. in 1956 there was a full length movie starring Edmond O'Brien.
In 1984 a movie titled 1984 was released starring John Hurt. Since then various countries have created various so-called 'Reality' shows titled Big Brother.
These shows tend to highlight the contempt television stations nowadays have for the general public. Since such shows have had some popularity, perhaps the contempt is well deserved and George Orwell's warnings about a terrible possible future have sadly been forgotten by most people.
One of the highlights of the history of science fiction is the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) starring Gary Lockwood. It was based on Arthur C. Clark's short story The Sentinel and has one powerful element to do with time.
There is the question of how humans evolved to create various civilizations to where space exploration became possible.
Was humanity helped along the way by black monoliths left here and there by aliens? If so then these monoliths may well have altered our concepts of not only time but what is possible.
The warning in 2001: A Space Odyssey has to do with computers. Could the logic, twisted or otherwise, of a futuristic computer prompt it to kill a human or see to the human's demise?
In the 1973 film Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston, an apple becomes a precious object and an expensive luxury to eat. The human population is out of control and there is widespread cannibalism. There's overcrowded housing and food riots.
There might have between ways to stem the tide of human population but, by the time you reach the future shown in this film, it is already too late.
In 1953 Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 came out. The name comes from the temperature at which paper burns. In this society Bradbury creates books are banned as anti-social. They are destroyed by firemen whose occupation is such destruction.
The book deals with a fireman, Montag, who comes to read a book and finds that he can no longer continue with his occupation.
In the end he goes into hiding in the wilderness to join the book people - men and women dedicated to keeping select books alive in their minds for the day when they can safely be put back into paper form.
The 1966 film adaption of this book, starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie, is quirky but satisfying. Perhaps its French director Francois Truffault has something to do with this. The movie doesn't start with a list of credits on the screen. Instead there is a voice telling us about the actors, etc. Being Truffault's first color film might explain the dynamic use reds and blues.
Both the book and the film point to a future we may now be sharing today where people are controlled by 'Simple Simon' style television.
In the movie there is the program 'Meet the Family'. On our television screens there are any number of 'reality' shows that serve the purpose of numbing viewers and leaving them with nothing but intellectual and spiritual emptiness.
More by this Author
The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, A Stainless Steel Rat is Born, Brave New World, 1984, Story of O, Tender is the Night, Wasp, Dune, Twilight Healer, A Study in Scarlet, Dracula, Jazz.
The 20th Century, Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Cold War, H. G. Wells, A Woman of Mars, The Hulk, Ian Fleming, Tarzan, A Clockwork Orange, Agatha Christie, Biggles.
Australian Propaganda from convict origins, to outlaws, to World War One, to populate or perish. Racism, Reverse Racism, sexism, loose lips sink ships, Muslims, Christians, bikinis, The Simpsons, USA