Pod People

March 26, 2004

"Barley wine, pink gin, he’ll drink anything,
Port, pernod or tequila.
Rum, scotch, vodka on the rocks,
Just as long as all his troubles disappear."

–Ray Davies

The other day I happened to catch my favorite movie of all time, the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, on television. I’ve heard that this film, with its eerie plot of giant pod people taking over a small California town, which would explain a lot about California, was a critique of McCarthyism and the mad Senator’s desire to make everyone conform to a single type of thought and behavior. Or maybe it was against Stalinism and the mad dictator’s desire to make everyone confirm to a single type of thought and behavior. Well, it’s supposed to be about the dangerous conformity demanded by some kind of -ism, which is probably why -isms are so prone to schisms. Whatever the -ism, the basic message of the movie is that it’s important to be an individual. It’s important to be yourself, to be unique, and it’s especially important that everyone do that.

But I digress. The one thing that amazes me about the film every time I watch it is the fact that everyone seems to consume massive quantities of alcohol. Somebody finds a pod person on his pool table, and he downs half a bottle of bourbon. Somebody else finds a pod in a basement and immediately reaches for the gin. It’s almost like one of those college drinking games where everyone takes a drink whenever someone says a common word, like "hello" or "phlebotomy". Halfway through the film I stop wondering when everybody’s going to stop seeing pod people and when they’re going to start seeing pink elephants. I’ve never seen pink elephants while drunk, but then again I’ve never consumed as much alcohol as people apparently did in the nineteen-fifties. Based on what I see in films from that decade the nineteen-fifties was a time when everyone drank alcohol all the time.

If I believed movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" I’d think people in the nineteen-fifties had Martinis for breakfast. I once asked my father if he’d ever had a Martini, and he launched into a harrowing story of the night he and a neighbor made a pitcher of them and he decided to have a couple. He woke up three years later in a completely different job with a strange short person in the house who, as it turned out, was me.

But I digress. Actually I don’t think anyone ever really consumed as much alcohol as everyone in "Invasion of The Body Snatchers" does, simply because there’d be an epidemic of cirrhosis of the liver. But I’m not saying I have anything against drinking. I enjoy a good drink just as much as the next guy. Sometimes I enjoy a drink more than the next guy, especially when the next guy is a Mormon friend of mine who not only won’t drink alcohol but who I believe secretly thinks I’m going to Hell because I also drink caffeine. He can believe that if he wants. Personally I’m happy to know at least one person who never drinks because it reassures me that I’m not like everybody else.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A Software Engineer, a Hardware Engineer and a Branch Manager were on their way to a meeting. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car’s occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?

"I know," said the Branch Manager, "Let’s have a meeting, propose a Vision, formulate a Mission Statement, define some Goals, and by a process of Continuous Improvement find a solution to the Critical Problems, and we can be on our way."

"No, no," said the Hardware Engineer, "That will take far too long, and besides, that method has never worked before. I’ve got my Swiss Army knife with me, and in no time at all I can strip down the car’s braking system, isolate the fault, fix it, and we can be on our way."

"Well," said the Software Engineer, "Before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again."

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