Beware the Earworm
Remember the TV show Soap? It was brilliant and ahead of its time. In the opening credits, we learned that the sweet, somewhat dim sister Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) was the sort of person who thought life would be better if it was set to music. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Think about a constantly running soundtrack being played in your head all day, all night…are you shower sobbing yet? YOU SHOULD BE.
I have constant earworms. And mine don’t last a couple of hours – my record was the theme from Cabaret which was on an endless loop for at least 3 months. Even hearing the word Chelsea makes me heave. Other outstanding examples: Rhinestone Cowboy, Alone Again Naturally, Wildfire (I didn’t mind that one, I unironically love that song. Its a ghost story, people!) and most lately I am in Day 3 of The Blue Danube Waltz. I seem to have had a musical taste upgrade! (And if you clicked any of those musical links, please accept my apologies.)
Enjoying a Strauss waltz while reading, cooking, trying to sleep, driving, right now – not that bad. And I can’t hear the music without flashing back to what was the most mind blowing event of my eight year old life – seeing the film 2001: ASpace Odyssey on the big screen. I think I saw that movie 10 times when it came out. It began my love affair with science fiction and my introduction to Golden Age writers like Clark and Asimov (among a million other.)
Two years later, I was very excited to go see another big budget (at the time) SF film, The Andromeda Strain. There were no sleek, elegant spaceships, no blue food, no Louis XIV decorated hotel room, not even a damn dirty ape! Only a dusty little town and a lot of dead people. Like the song that won’t get out of your head, this was the film that infected my young mind. It terrified me. I was a pretty nervous kid, I was scared of a lot of things – very specific things. I was afraid of the sun going nova. I was afraid of the electric plant smoke stacks (which I could see from my Long Island bedroom window) giving us all lung cancer. And most of all, I was afraid of the Andromeda disease killing my family. For some reason, it never occurred to me that I would also be a victim of blood-turning-to-dust. All I knew was it was really important to check and make sure my folks were still breathing. And this lasted for at least a year! During that time I had to break up with science fiction. It was too scary! It took Zenna Henderson’s Book of the People (which has been called Walton’s Mountain in Outer Space)(William Shatner was in that movie!) to lure me back to the SF fold.
The Andromeda Strain was on FX or TNT or something not that long ago, and I grabbed ahold of myself, poured a glass of wine, and sat down to watch it. Not surprisingly, it was really no big deal. The effects don’t hold up and the tech is obviously quite dated. The suspense isn’t all that suspensey. I let out a big Hmmmmm and went on with my day. The image of the dead guy with his forehead split open by the steering wheel – AND HIS BLOOD TURNED TO DUST! I confess that still kind of gave me the yicks. I wonder if I’m less scare-able? Or more discerning? Or maybe my hamster wheel brain has turned from being scared by movies to being driven slowly insane by the Blue Danube.
Here’s the sequence that started it all: