Today is a day like any and every other day. More or less. It’s also a rare day, if that’s possible.
Of course it’s possible. Anything is possible when you’re making shit up.
The calendar is made up. It’s useful, but it’s not sacred. The format follows the day/night cycle, more or less. It’s inexact. So we have these makeup days.
It’s like getting a tax refund. They (you know about Them already, I’m sure) took your 1/4 of a day from you for three straight years and are now giving them back, without interest. The Universe does not pay you interest. It doesn’t care about you at all.
What were They doing with your extra day? You should probably wash it before you use it.
I get a bit of insomnia sometimes. During those times, my “days” don’t fit in a 24-hour-per framework. It makes me think about time. During those days, I have extra time. And, often, a lack of coherence. There is no better time to think about time.
I’ve been on a time travel entertainment binge of late. Not traveling in time for the purposes of entertainment – going back to bet on Buster Douglas knocking out Tyson, dodo hunting trips, or watching the live version of the Battle of Cannae from the safety of a hot air balloon (with popcorn and triple berry smoothies).
I’m talking about movies and television.
It started with Continuum. I had watched a season and a half back when it first came on. Mostly just to watch Rachel Nichols, but I got caught up in it. Then I wandered away. I decided to rectify that and binged it out to the end.
Then I watched a bunch of time travel movies.
What I learned is that I really don’t give a hoot about the mechanism of time travel or the idea of inconsistencies and paradoxes. If I’m going to allow for time travel, I’m just not going to get all twitched up about that shit. If the Universe will accept the movement of people from point to point in time, then the Universe has its ass covered for when we fuck shit up. People are going to screw things up; that’s a given.
Every Grand Scale time travel story has contortions it goes through with these issues. I am not interested. I’m certainly not going to argue about your made up world mechanics. “What is time?” is a big, rambling sort of question.
It’s the kind of question you can discuss until the bar closes, like “Would the ’98 Yankees beat the ’27 Yankees in a 7-game series?” or “How often do zombies defecate?” or “Who would be the first pick in your fantasy rock band draft? (dead rockers count)”*
I really only care about the small things. The other stuff is the icing on the cake. There can be too much icing. Let’s not even talk about fondant.
We live in the moment. The day in front of us. This leap day is just a slice of life we gave a name and a slot in a greater grid. A grid we made up to order the chaos. In the end, the moment is what counts. Not that the rest doesn’t, but it’s all made up of moments. All those moments played out in front of us.
It took Continuum the entire arc of the show to figure out what you already know – you can never go home again.
Things change and that’s that. You just have to move forward. The stories focused on the small things resonate more for me.
There is a deeper point about me here, I’m sure. It’s the same reason I wander away from TV series all the time. I can do an hour, but if you are asking me to set time out for weekly updates, I’m gone. Unless there’s real happenings happening.
You can do both; mini hour-long story arcs nestled among the overall season (with maddeningly long mid-season break added for your annoyance).
I don’t really care about The Big Bad. I want to know what the toilet paper situation is in the apocalypse. I want to know how many midterms Teen Wolf had to retake. I need to know who pays for all the destruction every time Shit Goes Down.
I want to know how people get along without it all being a love quadrangle. This stuff can be slid in on the sly, for those paying attention, but you can’t ignore it every day because the Giant Conspiracy of Awful is looming. There’s no point to saving Everything if the Little Things die in the process.
Great stories manage this balance.
Time Bandits is a classic. There’s a lot going on, but it has a solid emotional base and it’s funny. FAQ About Time Travel manages to be funny about it all (but is still just a story about three pub doofuses and not truly a Save The World film, though it is that too). Terminator has a huge amount of Timeline Related Angst, but is really just a chase and survival story. Planet of the Apes has a lot going on, but the time travel is just a device behind the deeper stories.
The following Terminator films managed to get progressively shittier as the story went beyond the bubble of Sarah and her time traveling savior. Movies like Interstellar and Looper don’t grab me. The personal stuff seemed forced. Perhaps I just didn’t see the trees. Frequency managed to ruin an intimate story. Just a plate full of icing. Maybe they’re just time travel movies I don’t like and there’s no real thread there.
I like movies like Primer, Fetching Cody, Happy Accidents, Groundhog Day, Donnie Darko, Peggy Sue got Married, Repeaters. Maybe even +1 (maybe, that film had issues, but it was a nice effort). Not all great movies by any means, but they all have an organic feel. These are movies where the small stuff is big stakes for the individuals. The world isn’t getting saved; people are figuring out what time it is in their own lives.
The questions about time travel aren’t really “Can the Timeline survive me?” The question is “What would I do?” “How could I do it?” and “What should I do?”
Time Lapse is a movie about seeing one Polaroid photo from one day in the future. It’s a simple premise, but the story potential is great. If the movie itself ends with rather predictable results, I might suggest it’s because people are predictable. Our motivations are basic, our goals are simple and we are often short-sighted. Having a view of the future doesn’t change that.
In the end, the little things are what fuck everything up. Not in a butterfly flapping its wings sort of way. In the way that little things impact us every day in our small stories. The Timeline survives regardless of our romping, but the dog needs to be fed today or it won’t have a tomorrow.
*The ’98 Yankees win. Zombies don’t defecate, the consumed matter bursts out wherever it finds a weak spot. Jimi Hendrix.