Sunday, May 03, 2009

Imaginary Corporations, by Adam Baulderstone

--This is a letter sent to me by a friend. It's not meant to be scientific, only observational. But the observations are excellent ones...

That whole interlocking grid of TV shows was pretty impressive. I remember the end of St Elsewhere from back in the day, but I had no idea it was connected to Homicide. It really gets baffling when you work Newhart into it as that whole series turned out to be an extended dream sequence from The Bob Newhart Show, and Mork was a character from a dream of Richie Cunningham from Happy Days.

I thought it was funny that the Doctor Who / Hitchhiker's Guide crossover I just mentioned to you came up in there, too.

They were limiting themselves to just TV shows, but I noticed a few connections that lead into other media. They mention the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as client of Wolfram and Hart, a satanic law firm in Angel and as a weapons manufacturer in Firefly, but it's original appearance is as "The Company" in Alien. It is never mentioned aloud, but the name and logo can be seen around the Nostromo and on beer cans. The name was invented by Ron Cobb, the designer of the Nostromo. He originally wanted to call it Leyland-Toyota, imagining it as a merging of British and Japanese businesses, but for legal reasons changed the name. In 1979, we hadn't reached the point where real companies were so eager to have their names in movies they would agree, even if the movie was just trying to make the point that their product was designed for morons, like Gatorade in Idiocracy. Weyand-Yutani is mentioned by name in Aliens but the logo has been made significantly blander in accordance with James Cameron's artistic vision.

From Alien, there is the obvious leap to Predator 2. You could lead in to comics by way of DC's Batman vs. Predator or the execrable Aliens vs.Superman, possibly the worst-conceived crossover ever, but I'm going to go with Predator vs. Judge Dredd, not that it is much better, but Judge Dredd teamed up with a time traveling Johnny Alpha. And who doesn't want to see Strontium Dog as the distant future of Homicide.

Of course once you've entered comics almost everything bleeds into everything else, especially when you toss Top 10 and League of Extraordinary Gentleman into the mix, so this is all a little to easy. The real danger is if the Munch Meme breaks into the world of comics all that interconnection could allow it to expand exponentially in only a matter of issues. In no time at all racks will be overflowing with Munch: GCPD and Judge Munch comics.

That's as far as I want to go down the Weyland-Yutani path. There is another corporate client of Wolfram and Hart you might remember: Yoyodyne. They also identify it as the builder of the run down bus depot where The John Larroquette Show is set, as well as a contactor building starships for Starfleet in Star Trek: the Next Generation. But if you delve deeper, Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems appears in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the Eighth Dimension, as a company infiltrated by the Red Lectroids, aliens that landed in 1939 at Grover's Mill in New Jersey (5 minutes from my sister's house right by an excellent Indian restaurant), using Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast as a diversion.

A sequel was written, Buckaroo Banzai against the World Crime League, in which the hero Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers are assisted by a trucker named Jack Burton. But, despite picking up a dedicated following amongst nerds, the movie tanked, being released in 1984 against Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters andStar Trek III (two Yoyodyne related movies in one summer!), and the sequel went unmade. W.D. Richter instead went to work writing Big Trouble In Little China.

But all this is just a detour from the true origin of Yoyodyne: Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, V., and Vineland in which it is a thinly-veiled version of the real-world Rocketdyne Corporation, a company formed in the wake of WWII to reverse-engineer Nazi rocket technology, specifically the V-2 rocket, whose parabolic path would give Gravity's Rainbow its title and primary theme.

Much like comics, once you've hit Pynchon you can tie pretty much anything in. For instance, William Gibson took one line from Gravity's Rainbow, a description of a mirrored wall, and used it word for word in Neuromancer. I'd quote it but I don't have a copy ofNeuromancer and it could take me a few days to find In Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon paid him back by taking a TV worshiping trailer park cult that Gibson created in Virtual Lightand used it in Vineland.

also contains Eddie Enrico and his Hong Kong Hotshots an obvious reference to Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers. To highlight the reference he also mentions Ramon Raquello on the same page. Raquello was the fictitious bandleader whose show was interrupted by Orson Welles to bring news of the landing at Grover's Mill.

There is some debate as to whether Yoyodyne was spread through nerd culture directly by Pynchon's work or through Buckaroo Banzai. In the case of Star Trek it seems someone there is a Pynchon fan as unlikely as it might seem. Episode 523(!) of Deep Space Nine involves various conspiracies swirling around the auction of an ancient baseball card of Willie Mays. Oddly both Pynchon and Mays were born on May 8, and in Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon obliquely calls baseball, "A sport also well-spidered with suggestions of the sinister."

With all these new revelations about the Homicide Universe, it makes me wonder about Crosetti's "suicide." Just what did he find out about the Lincoln assassination?...

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