Tag Archives: the truth about cats

Episode 980: Next Stop Keystone City

“Trying to transcend that other time level can be very dangerous!”

Eccentric mass murderer and explorer of the outer realms Barnabas Collins is pacing the Collinwood drawing room, frowning heroically and making excuses. He’s been having one of his spells again.

His friend Julia takes a lap around the track. “Barnabas, why did you do it?” she wails. Barnabas drank Megan dry a few weeks ago, and now he’s about three-quarters of the way through Sabrina.

“I stayed at the Old House, and fought the urge to leave,” he says, striking an apologetic pose. “And then she came to me.”

“You couldn’t help yourself,” Julia observes.

Barnabas swivels, and snaps, “Do you think I do this by choice?”

“No, Barnabas,” she reassures him. “I know what you’re going through.” Yeah, he’s going through the entire female supporting cast, is what he’s going through.

Continue reading Episode 980: Next Stop Keystone City

Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

“Have I come back to tragedy and death again?”

We left off yesterday with Erwin Schrodinger and his magical cat, trapped in a thought experiment about quantum indeterminacy that threatens to destroy us all.

Here’s how it works: The theoretical cat is placed in a sealed chamber with a Geiger counter, a hammer, a flask of cyanide, and a small chunk of something radioactive, which may or may not decay over the course of an hour. Within that hour, there are two possibilities:

#1. The atom decays, which is detected by the Geiger counter, which trips a sensor that makes the hammer smash into the flask, releasing the cyanide and killing the cat.

#2. The atom doesn’t decay, which means no Geiger, no hammer, no cyanide. In that case, the cat is alive at the end of the hour, and it can go about its business.

Now, according to quantum mechanics, the atomic decay in the radioactive substance is in both states simultaneously — both decayed and not — until it’s observed, at which point it resolves into one state or the other. And if the cat’s life is determined by the unresolved atomic decay, then the cat is both alive and dead at the same time — until you open the box and look inside, which causes the wave function to collapse into either “alive cat” or “dead cat”. And then you feed the cat, or bury it, as appropriate.

But Schrodinger and his imaginary thought-experiment grad students completely missed the third alternative, which is that the cat would look at all this equipment, and figure out what’s going on.

At that point, you have an undead cat, sitting alone in a steel box with a flask of cyanide, a hammer and an active source of plutonium, and nothing to do for the next fifty-five minutes but think about the future. Schrodinger has created a dangerous supernatural entity, and provided it with an arsenal.

You don’t resolve a situation like this by opening the box. Opening the box is the beginning of act two.

Continue reading Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

Episode 869: Schrodinger’s Vampire

“We’re clearly in the presence of two distinctly different bodies.”

You know, everyone talks about quantum superposition, but nobody does anything about it.

The scientific protocol is as follows: You put a vampire into a box, while the actor goes to Illinois and appears in Dial M for Murder. After four weeks, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that audience interest in the story has decayed.

While the mystery box is closed and the audience can’t observe the vampire directly, the storyline exists in two states simultaneously, a superposition of “dead vampire” and “alive vampire”. This is soap opera quantum mechanics. When you open the box, the two possible quantum states collapse into one, and the audience can observe whether the vampire is alive or dead.

The problem is that Edward Collins and Count Petofi have just opened the coffin, and there’s both a dead Barnabas lying in the coffin and an alive Barnabas collapsing on the cave floor. They’re supposed to choose one or the other; Schrodinger will be simply furious when he hears about this.

So here we are — at the peak of Dark Shadows’ ratings success, cresting the last great surprise before the show begins its long, gradual decline. In this moment, the show’s rising popularity meets its impending defeat; it is simultaneously a blockbuster hit and a soon-to-be-forgotten novelty.

It’s time for reality to collapse into one position or another — and on Dark Shadows, when things collapse, they really collapse.

Continue reading Episode 869: Schrodinger’s Vampire

Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 8: The Ballad of Big Boy

“Was she so hysterical as to mistake a snake for a cat?”

We’re spending two weeks reading the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, and I know, I’m just as sick of it as you are. The thing just runs and runs, and never really gets anywhere, because the show’s been boiled all the way down to a simple, repeatable formula.

Barnabas is a vampire, Elizabeth and Carolyn are rich clueless women living in a huge mansion, and then an interloper appears — a ghost, a goddess, a werewolf, a warlock, whatever you have lying around. The newcomer puts someone in danger. Barnabas tries to fight it, and fails. Then he talks to someone, or travels somewhere, and figures out the villain’s secret weakness. Barnabas sets a trap for the baddie, waves his magic wand, and then everything is fine.

It’s an added bonus if you can connect the monster of the month to Barnabas’ past, but honestly, it could be anything. I mean, you could even do a woman who turns into a cat with snake venom on her claws. Oh wait, they already did.

Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 8: The Ballad of Big Boy

Episode 853: Head Games

“Don’t touch me! Let his eyes tell me what to do!”

It must have been hard, over the last several years, to always play the good girl on a show increasingly inhabited by loud ladies. Kathryn Leigh Scott started out on Dark Shadows as waitress Maggie Evans, who was originally supposed to be a tough cookie, but mellowed fairly quickly into the sweet girl next door, and stayed there.

The show’s writing team turned over several times, early on — from Art Wallace to Francis Swann to Ron Sproat and Malcolm Malmorstein, in less than six months — and when the writers change rapidly on a soap opera, you’d better have a really firm grip on your character, or you risk drifting into just playing a version of yourself. That’s what happened to Roger, who started out as a villain and got himself nerfed all the way into harmless gay uncle. Maggie was a cynical young woman taking care of her alcoholic dad, but those rough edges got sanded off clean by the time Barnabas emerged from the mystery box.

And then Julia happened — a high camp trickster, whose priorities are finding her light, getting her hands in the shot, inventing facial expressions and paying attention to other actors, in that order. She was the pioneer loud lady on Dark Shadows, establishing a no-holds-barred theatrical style that chased all the nice girls off the stage.

In 1795, other actresses got to be louder and crazier — witch-vixen Angelique, obviously, and angry Aunt Abigail, and the eternally teetering Millicent. After a while, loud lady became the default setting for new characters — Eve and Magda and Judith and Jenny and Laura and Minerva and Charity Trask, all of them strutting and scheming and getting into fights on the regular.

But Kathryn Leigh Scott was stuck in the nice girl persona — the kidnapped Maggie, the spellbound Josette, the innocent Rachel. She’s spent the last two years being upstaged by one vixen after another. And then there’s Kitty.

Continue reading Episode 853: Head Games

Episode 615: The Truth About Cats and Dogs

“What difference does it make who catches the vampire?”

Hey, look who’s come over for a social call — it’s Sheriff George Patterson, the three-time winner for Least Effective Police Officer in the Dramatic Arts. In the two years that he’s been on Dark Shadows, Collinsport has grown from a gloomy little seaside town into a nightmarish hellscape ruled by demonic mob bosses, who never get prosecuted or even questioned very hard. We’re not going to see another law enforcement losing streak like this until the Pink Panther movies in the mid-70s, and even Inspector Clouseau managed to catch the bad guy once in a while.

As we’ve seen this week, there’s been a massive conspiracy to kill that nice young Joe Haskell, with four characters directly involved in a plot to poison his medicine. Furious, he decided to take the law into his own hands, and there’s an eyewitness alleging that she watched Joe strangle Barnabas Collins while he was innocently napping in an armchair.

Joe is not technically in custody at the moment, because he’s in the hospital, recuperating. But he never gets booked, and nobody else in the crime syndicate does either. Sheriff George Patterson lives in the law-breakiest town in the world, and he never even makes a goddamn arrest.

Continue reading Episode 615: The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Time Travel, part 3: Blood Chemistry

“Hot tentacles stretch upwards.”

We’ve reached a milestone in our uncertain and frightening journey into the past — June 6th, 1968, the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy died. Kennedy was in the middle of a Presidential campaign, and he was gunned down by an assassin on June 5th, just after winning the Democratic primaries in California and South Dakota.

So Dark Shadows was pre-empted on June 6th, along with the other network daytime shows, to present news coverage of the assassination.

On this blog, a pre-emption day means I fill in with an episode of NBC’s 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. We watched episode 1 of the new series for Thanksgiving 1967, and episode 2 a month later for Christmas. Marking a more somber occasion, I’m going to draw a respectful curtain over the tragic circumstances of this particular pre-emption, and move on to my discussion of this mediocre vampire show.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 3: Blood Chemistry

Episode 382: A Witch in Time

“If the Devil has blinded me, Abigail, I consider it curious that he lets you in on all his plans.”

You know, everybody likes to talk smack about Abigail Collins, but when you think about it, every single thing she says is exactly one hundred percent correct.

Let’s run through some of her pet theories.

Abigail believes that Phyllis Wick, Sarah’s real governess, was replaced by Victoria Winters in some unnatural way. This is true.

Abigail thinks that the clothes Vicki was wearing when she arrived were shockingly immodest. According to the standards of the 1790s, this is true.

Abigail thinks that Vicki’s lying when she claims that she doesn’t know where she came from, that Vicki has uncanny knowledge about the future, and that the world would be a better place with one less Victoria Winters in it — check, check and check.

She’s basically nailed it, all the way down the line. Is it too late to go back and make this a television show about Abigail?

Continue reading Episode 382: A Witch in Time

Episode 379: Nine Lives to Live

“Your aunt is right. The cat is a sign, the Devil’s pet. The laughter after the joke.”

“Governesses are supposed to be trusting,” the Countess du Prés smiles. “One has to be in dealing with children. Think of me as a giant child.”

Joshua Collins has disappeared, all of a sudden and in the middle of an argument. While the men are out pointlessly searching the grounds, the Countess has decided to re-enact the mystery, with herself in the starring role as Joshua, and Vicki pinch-hitting for Jeremiah. As usual, Grayson Hall is having a wonderful time in the role of Natalie, who has all of Julia’s swagger, none of Julia’s guilt, and a much more extravagant wardrobe.

And then there’s Vicki, who’s come all the way from the 20th century, and refuses to have any fun at all.

Continue reading Episode 379: Nine Lives to Live