Friday, June 4, 2010
It's a Walking Eye!
The news media has been really focused on the Gulf of Mexico deep-water oil spill. I can see why. It's a serious environmental crisis, to be sure, and one that forces us to acknowledge some realities of our energy needs. Like, how many oil-covered birds are acceptable on a modern beach? Lefty environmental extremists will cry that birds must never be covered with petroleum; that even one oil-covered egret in the Mississippi Delta is too many. Leaving aside the lifestyle concerns of egrets (maybe they WANT to be covered in oil. Did you ask?), the appeal to the national news media seems endless. To begin with, I have to believe that many on the cable networks feel a certain kinship with the busted well known as Mississippi Valley 252. You can't ask Olbermann to look at a black hole spewing endless gallons of toxic bile and not feel a twinge of sympathy. That goes double for anyone at CNN, for whom a gushing hemophiliac wound represents more than a standard for broadcasting: it's a business model, too!
And finally, the leak is just good fun. It's the sort of crisis that lasts for a long time, leads to more B-roll of filthy dead wildlife than you could ever sell to a stock footage bank and (because the science is so wacky and poorly-understood) grants carte blanche to navel-gaze about the "narrative" it presents to "the nation." That's when you're not busy just making shit up, like Limbaugh's famous pronouncement that the oil was "just as natural as the water" and would "naturally disperse." I offer the following link to demonstrate that while petroleum has natural origins, it is far too sexy to be dismissed in cavalier fashion:
If there's anything we should have learned from the litany of attempted fixes to the leak, it's this: we are past Science and officially in the realm of Super-Science. Those unfamiliar with the distinction are welcome to view The Venture Bros. Essentially, Super-Science is what happens when science becomes completely disconnected from the normal parameters we're familiar with (cost, ethics, actual use to consumers). To put this in context, drilling for oil is science. Drilling for oil a mile under the ocean with diamond-saw-wielding robots is Super-Science. Outlandish plans to stop the underwater death geyser (many of them involving the aforementioned robots) have been even cooler than the original deep-sea drilling concept. Which is cool, yes, but what's the ultimate result? Just another ugly-ass oil rig.
Super-Science is all about the product, which is how we end up with Walking Eyes and other staples of retro adventure-novel awesomeness. Hell, the robots with the diamond saws are practically good enough on their own! They're no less threatening than the army of Mouser robots that Shredder built to roam the sewers. And when we're talking about TMNT, let's be very clear about something: we're talking about the cartoon. The movies are great in their own special way, but they were a product of a very special time in our nation's pop-culture history; a time before the unified front of Internet fandom could actually exert influence on a Hollywood director's decisions. The result? Vanilla Ice cameos and the image above, which is Dennis Hopper's official pic on the great heavenly Facebook website. I'm sure that's how he wanted to be remembered.
By this point, you may be thinking, "This oil spill is a giant disaster. How is this a positive for Super-Science?" It's neither positive nor negative; it's just an inevitable consequence. If you have people actively practicing Super-Science, there will necessarily be some disasters, accidents and mishaps. Some will be more severe than others; as bad as this seems for Gulf wildlife, what if BP had invented a dimensional gateway that allowed an alien (disguised as actor Jaye Davidson) to fly his pyramid spaceship to our planet and conquer us with his Egyptian-themed magic powers? These are the kinds of dangers we'll face moving forward, though the societal benefits of Super-Science shouldn't be understated. Supersonic aircraft! Steampunk-themed dirigibles flying over major cities! And lastly, entire meals contained in a single mysterious pill that may or may not have been made from people. The rise of superhero and supervillain organizations are possible, but Republican opposition to national unions may put everything on hold. For more information on the long-term consequences of Super-Science for American society, I'd again direct your attention to The Venture Bros., an animated series on Adult Swim that is also the funniest damned show on TV. Link to a solid clip here; those Adult Swim jerks are all like "we made this content so you're not allowed to embed it."