Mars Attacks!: I think you owe me money, Tim Burton | Street Jazz

Mars Attacks!: I think you owe me money, Tim Burton



Okay, not really. But still, I do have my fantasies . . .

It all begins with Mars Attacks! - a film which kicks the highly cliched Independence Day right out of orbit for sheer cleverness. Mars Attacks! was directed by Tim Burton from a script by Jonathan Gems. Gems, of course, based his screenplay on the famous series of Mars Attacks! trading cards produced by the Topps Company so many years ago.

In order for my tale of woe, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing more than my dark fantasy that somehow, somewhere, a manuscript of a story I wrote in fifth grade is still making the rounds out there, you have to understand that I never saw the aforementioned cards from Topps until years after I wrote what I believed at the time was every bit as good as Fireball XL-5, my standard for SF at the time.

In 1964, when my father was stationed at Croughton Air Force Base in England, our teacher, Mrs. Hathaway, assigned us all a writing assignment - write a short story and bring it back to class the next day.

I don’t know about your schools, but our teachers were always giving us assignments like this.

Write a short story!

Write a poem!

Write a haiku!

Learn passages from Shakespeare!

So there I am, at the ripe old age of 10 years old, and suddenly a teacher wants me to write a story? What to do? What to do? Fortunately, she didn’t give us the old line about “Write about what you know.”

Most of the world’s greatest science fiction - not to mention political commentary - would never be written if folks all stuck to this rule.

My one abiding love at the time was science fiction. Fireball XL-5, Doctor Who, Superman comics, A Wrinkle in Time, and Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars all fed my childhood imagination.

I wrote a story, perhaps only two pages long, called “The Siege,” about a Martian invasion of Earth.

It has occurred to me many times over the years that when we really do find those underground cities on Mars - yeah, try telling me that they don’t exist - the Martians are going to have a pretty hard time, when it comes to making friends here on Earth.

Outside of the valiant efforts of writers such as Ray Bradbury, most of the PR the Martians have gotten is pretty bad. And my efforts followed along that same line.

As so many young boys might, I found it terribly important to list not only the sorts of weapons the Martians brought to Earth, but the exact number.

Lots and lots of tanks, as I recall. Being Martian tanks, they were superior to our tanks, and the human race lost.

So far, so good - or so far, so fifth grade. Nothing to whine about here. In fact, I got an A on my effort, which inspired me to write many unpublished SF stories over the years, and one self-published SF novel.

So just why am I complaining, Zany Reader? Well, after the Martians succeed in their monstrous invasion, they take back the greatest treasures of Earth back to their home planet.

The English Crown jewels.

Something else which I can't remember, but was probably pretty cool to a fifth grader.

The Beatles.

I hadn't had much exposure to the Beatles; all I really knew was that most of the grownups I knew really, really hated their music.

So this is where my imaginary beef with Tim Burton comes in. If you will recall, the music of Slim Whitman (ugh) helped drive away the Martian invaders in the film. In “The Siege” - which sadly doesn’t exist anywhere anymore except in my memory - when the Martians heard the music of the Beatles they hated them so much they gave Earth back to the human race.


Or conspiracy? You be the judge . . . and please be kind. Obviously, I’m not well.

In the meantime, I’ll be checking out the new Star Trek movie closely, and taking notes to see if any plot points resemble a Star Trek short story I wrote when was in eighth-grade.

Sadly, that to is lost to the ages, so the evidence is gone. But it won’t stop me . . .


Miracles - God is nowhere? Or, God is now

In a perfect world, television networks wouldn’t be run by soulless automatons, concerned only with the bottom line. In my idea of the perfect world, television programs would actually be given a chance to find an audience and a following before being yanked off the air.

Ah - silly me.

Miracles (2003) is another one of those shows that you might have enjoyed, had you actually known it was on. Like so many series before it, it concerns a group who investigate what we like to refer to as “the unknown.” No, not Bigfoot - that’s for would-be scientists who think that Coors has all the essential vitamins they need.

The Miracles team looked into so-called miracles, trying to determine how authentic they might be. Paul Callan (Skeet Ulrich - Jericho) is a priest who had previously served the same function for the Roman Catholic Church, only to leave due to his frustration over the fact that the church didn’t really seem all that interested in the cases they were sending him out on. The idea that some of the “miracles might be real seemed to make some in the church hierarchy nervous.

While looking into one case, Callan is involved in a car accident, and sees the words, “God is now here,” written in his own blood.

Or, as pointed out to him later, was he really seeing, “God is nowhere?” This brings him into contact with Alva Keel, formerly of Harvard, now full-time investigator of the paranormal. Keel feels that dangerous events may be happening at an accelerated pace on the spiritual realm, and that they must look into these occurrences.

They join up with a former police officer (Marisa Ramirez - General Hospital) and begin to find their way through this psychic maze. I wonder how you find a psychic detective agency, anyway?

Miracles had a good pedigree; executive producer David Greenwalt was one of the creators of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and had worked on the spin-off, Angel. Richard Hatem, writer of many of the shows, helped guide The Dead Zone on the USA network.

Even so, ABC did its usual bang-up job of mishandling a truly creative series, giving it an extremely poor time slot, and giving it very poor promotion. As a result, the show was canceled after only six episodes.

Interesting thing about shows that are yanked like this - when these shows are shown in foreign countries, those viewers often get to see the entire run of episodes. And so it was with Miracles; though American viewers were denied the final seven shows, foreign viewers were able to see them.

But now, thanks to the magic circles known as DVDs, we in the states can now enjoy them. Almost without fail, the episodes are intriguing, and provide the viewer with more than a few chills. The only weak episode is the last one, in which I felt they were trying to tie up a few too many loose ends.

Sure, a lot of it has been done before, but it’s how you tell the story that matters. The crew behind Miracles have a sure hand when it comes to storytelling, and the guest star roster is also impressive.

And I suspect that some of these plots have never been done before. So this is a series that you should definitely check out.


Quote of the Day

It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

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