Friday, October 31, 2008

War of the Worlds, Words on Wine

The day before Halloween — the finale of my Month of Horror — I saw David Lynch footage on one of those little TVs they have in the back of the taxi cabs here now.  But it wasn’t a thriller set in the Pacific Northwest.  No, the David Lynch I speak of is wine critic David Lynch — and on the cab TV was my college acquaintance David Kamp, co-author with Lynch of The Wine Snob’s Dictionary, part of the series of “Snob” books Kamp has written with various co-authors, covering Rock, Film, Food, and Wine, respectively.  In the video clip, he says one wine has a hint of “pipi de chat,” so there is still a college humor writer within him.

Kamp also wrote a book about America’s increasingly gourmet tastes, The United States of Arugula, which would have been perfectly timed if it came out when Barack Obama was being accused of being an elitist for mentioning arugula — when Obama should simply have been accused of being a politician who doesn’t learn from history, given that Michael Dukakis was faulted during his presidential campaign twenty years ago for urging Midwest farmers to grow arugula.  This does not make them un-American — though I will note that my spellchecker doesn’t know “arugula,” so maybe it’s weirder than I realize.  They are, of course, both socialists, but more on that tomorrow, as we segue back into politics as usual after two months of nominally sex- and horror-related blogging.

Speaking of media and sinister, alien lifeforms, today is the anniversary of Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds broadcast that scared some people into thinking a real alien invasion was taking place (comedian Steve Allen attested that when he was a child, his household thought it was really happening, so people who pooh-pooh the panic are wrong).  Adding a layer to the confusion, the movie Buckaroo Banzai cleverly introduced the idea that the broadcast was a fake fake — a cover for a real alien invasion.

Perhaps even more bizarrely, I’ve read that there was a short-lived, mediocre War of the Worlds TV series a couple decades ago — and its second season was produced by people who admit they never even watched the first season, with strange, jarring continuity errors resulting, character behavior radically changing, and the alien race suddenly having different motivations and a different history.  And this was happening in a series that was already playing around with the idea that the Welles broadcast was somehow being misremembered by those who heard it, possibly due to a Banzai-style cover-up or mass hypnosis.  I pity the brave few who probably exist out there somewhere who slogged through the whole series, trying to fit the pieces together.  And you thought reconciling elements of Star Trek continuity was sometimes tricky.

Here’s hoping people start to become more attentive to the continuity errors in the non-fiction broadcasts, though, particularly around election time.  But again, more on that tomorrow.


Sean Dougherty said...

I’ve met the last surviving cast member of War of the Worlds, Bill Herz, who had one line as a ham radio operator.

He says that they had no idea what was going on until after the broadcast when Welles faced the media.

However, like most depression-era actors, he can remember more clearly how much he was paid than the details of the broadcast.

My favorite line as a resident of North Jersey is “the aliens are advancing across the fields of Kearney.” In the 1990s I lived one town over from Kearney, and trust me, there aren’t fields there any more. Interesting that what was an agrarian community as recently as 1938 was on the opening sequence of the Sopranos by 2000 or so.

J.R. Taylor said...

That syndicated “War of the Worlds” was kind of interesting in an awful way. Two of the leads in the first season were a quirky New Age scientist and a conservative military man. The military man was killed off at the start of the second season, but the quirky scientist started to wise up, so that worked out. (The big changes in the second season were new aliens and all-out war instead of a stealth invasion.) I watched it on Friday nights paired with “Freddy’s Nightmares” — which was an even weirder show, since the producers wanted hour-long anthology stories that could also later be packaged as separate half-hour episodes. It took me a long time to figure that one out.