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Author Topic: EP240: The Last McDougal’s  (Read 12779 times)

Swamp

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on: May 13, 2010, 03:51:18 PM
EP240: The Last McDougal’s

By David D. Levine.
Read by Stephen Eley.

First appeared in Asimov’s, January 2006.

Special closing song: “Blue,” by Yoko Kanno.

As the old man came in, letting the door close gently behind him, an expression came over his face that Garth had seen many times before: a compound of misty nostalgia and appalled astonishment. His gaze swept across the yellow and orange fiberglass chairs, their cracks and dings lovingly but visibly repaired; the plastic-topped tables with the white half-moons rubbed by millions of elbows; the light softly shining from the satiny steel of the napkin and catsup dispensers. Finally the old man’s eyes stopped dead on the smiling face of the six-foot-tall fiberglass cow that stood at the end of the counter, wearing an apron and a chef’s hat. “My God,” he said, “it’s Moogle McDougal.”

“It certainly is,” said Garth. “Welcome to McDougal’s. May I take your order?”

“Give me a minute,” he replied as he perused the menu. He had a comfortable old boot of a voice, rough but mellow. “It’s been… jeez, thirty years? …since I’ve been in one of these places. Um, I’ll have a double cheeseburger, a small order of fries, and….” He grinned. “…and a shake. Chocolate.”


Rated PG. Contains some violence and is high in saturated fats.


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stePH

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Reply #1 on: May 13, 2010, 04:52:09 PM
Haven't listened yet... it hasn't even downloaded to my computer yet, last I checked... but I approve of the closing song  :)  I love Mai Yamane's singing and have tried in vain to find anything else by her apart from the few songs on the Cowboy Bebop OSTs.

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Swamp

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Reply #2 on: May 13, 2010, 05:01:15 PM
Steve's "storytime" lead-in had me rolling :D and remembering this awesome skit that I heard back in the day on the Dr. Demento Show.  I couldn't find the strait audio, only this Youtube video.  It's better if you just close your eyes (or minimize the screen) and listen to it.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2010, 05:08:55 PM by Swamp »

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SFEley

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Reply #3 on: May 13, 2010, 05:15:26 PM
Steve's "storytime" lead-in had me rolling :D and remembering this awesome skit that I heard back in the day on the Dr. Demento Show.  I couldn't find the strait audio, only this Youtube video.  It's better if you just close your eyes (or minimize the screen) and listen to it.

Another Dr. Demento fan! Fabulous.

ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


Unblinking

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Reply #4 on: May 13, 2010, 10:03:38 PM
I haven't listened yet, but I just gotta say "Hell yeah, Escape Pod is back!"  I'll be loading this up on the iPod tonight.   ;D



Bdoomed

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Reply #5 on: May 13, 2010, 10:19:43 PM
Haven't listened yet... it hasn't even downloaded to my computer yet, last I checked... but I approve of the closing song  :)  I love Mai Yamane's singing and have tried in vain to find anything else by her apart from the few songs on the Cowboy Bebop OSTs.

I saw that and was just about to post the same thing!  Blue is one of my favorite songs ever!  Even more so by its placement in the series :)

Can't wait to give this story a listen, Escape Pod is back! *grin*

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


stePH

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Reply #6 on: May 14, 2010, 01:02:08 AM
Blue is one of my favorite songs ever!  Even more so by its placement in the series :)

I have to rate "Gotta Knock a Little Harder" as my personal favorite Kanno/Yamane song.  But "Blue" is a close second.  And "Want It All Back" is just fun.


...ah, there we go, episode's downloaded and has been copied to iPod.

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Talia

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Reply #7 on: May 14, 2010, 02:44:18 AM
Heh, this made me think of Feng Burger, and I was going to say "well that's very cyclical isn't it" but Feng Burger was actually episode 2, not 1. :P

Still, though :p It felt weirdly right :P

Great story, but man what a brat (I guess that's teenagers for you though, at least the particularly moody ones).



stePH

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Reply #8 on: May 14, 2010, 02:11:36 PM
Now having listened:

Ugh.  I don't think I want to live in a future without beef.  And WTF is with the kids and their horns? (did that sound a little "Git off mah lawn!" ?)

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Listener

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Reply #9 on: May 14, 2010, 04:06:21 PM
Steve's closing quotation really resonated with me because, at my old job, we never did anything just to do it. Everything had to be 100% perfect before we even started on it. And I too love "Blue", although my favorite Bebop song is probably "Ask DNA".

I swear I've read this story before in another form. I can't place it, exactly. The horns thing was really weird, and I really expected the story to end with Rack and Dan working at McDougal's with Garth. So I didn't really like it because I don't think any new ground was covered, and without that I just didn't feel the story was strong enough to stand on its own.

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stePH

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Reply #10 on: May 14, 2010, 05:00:21 PM
Heh, this made me think of Feng Burger, and I was going to say "well that's very cyclical isn't it" but Feng Burger was actually episode 2, not 1. :P

If you ask me, "Imperial" never happened (I know, nobody asked me  :P).  So, yes, it's very cyclical to begin and end with burgers.

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Subgenre

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Reply #11 on: May 14, 2010, 10:00:32 PM
I find it incredibly hard to sympathize with the old fogies in this story.

Empathize, sure. I feel like things have changed too much all the time. My friends and family have heard my "everything is so more expensive than it was when I was a kid" schpiel many times before. But I "sympathized" with the grand-daughter, not the two men. In a way it seems like I'm caught between feeling personally like an old fogey but having a very future-oriented values system; where transhuman biomodification and greater personal independence than the old genetic-instincts-derived family/clan/tribe system are inalienable rights.

Anyone else get pulled between their personal experiences and futurist sentiments in SciFi, like this story, that try to pull strings of sentiment?

In many ways I found the behavior of Dan just as irrational and harmful as Rack's and the ending was sort of the glossy "stories you've heard a million times" wrapper over the tasty SciFi (I will never switch to "SF") meat.


And, oh yeah, NEW ESCAPEPOD!


« Last Edit: May 14, 2010, 10:03:10 PM by Subgenre »



SFEley

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Reply #12 on: May 14, 2010, 10:29:01 PM
In many ways I found the behavior of Dan just as irrational and harmful as Rack's ...

I'm curious. What did Dan do that you consider irrational and harmful? By my reckoning, his two actions in this story were:
  • Taking his granddaughter-by-proxy to lunch at a restaurant he once enjoyed; and
  • Pulling her out of a fire.

Which one was the crazy part?

To be fair, I found Rack pretty sympathetic also. Yes, she was a brat, but a believable one with plausible frustrations at home. Teenagers are annoying and adults are annoying. What I liked about this story was that there were no bad guys. The conflict was environmental and without malice.

(Also: now that I'm not an editor any more, I may be more of a smartass.) >8->

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Swamp

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Reply #13 on: May 14, 2010, 10:43:29 PM
(Also: now that I'm not an editor any more, I may be more of a smartass.) >8->

 :D  Stepping down can be liberating, can't it?  I think I have my Pseudopod flash story; it will be titled Eley Unleashed.  ;)

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SFEley

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Reply #14 on: May 15, 2010, 04:04:08 AM
I think I have my Pseudopod flash story; it will be titled Eley Unleashed.  ;)

Hey now.  We won't get into those hobbies.

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Subgenre

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Reply #15 on: May 15, 2010, 06:08:38 PM
In many ways I found the behavior of Dan just as irrational and harmful as Rack's ...

I'm curious. What did Dan do that you consider irrational and harmful? By my reckoning, his two actions in this story were:
  • Taking his granddaughter-by-proxy to lunch at a restaurant he once enjoyed; and
  • Pulling her out of a fire.

Which one was the crazy part?

To be fair, I found Rack pretty sympathetic also. Yes, she was a brat, but a believable one with plausible frustrations at home. Teenagers are annoying and adults are annoying. What I liked about this story was that there were no bad guys. The conflict was environmental and without malice.

(Also: now that I'm not an editor any more, I may be more of a smartass.) >8->

Storming out of a building when upset is a reasonable reaction. It takes a bit more of personal dysfunction to not automatically have the natural reaction of giving a person space when they do that. And from that point in the story, when the two old guys basically block her way and try to grab her, nothing the girl does seems to be out of some inherent irrationality; instead it all seems to be a perfectly reasonable adrenaline reaction from that point. The obsessive behavior and way not helpful comments from Dan plus the meddling help-to-surround-the-upset-girl behavior of the restaurant owner seemed to be fully responsible for provoking the girl's crazed reaction. You put someone in a corner like that and you're the one responsible for what happens, not them.

There's a reason why in tv and movies people always stand around for half a minute before going after the person who runs out the door upset. You try to physically restrain someone who is only trying to get away from you and your pretty much the instigator of any irrational behavior that follows from that person.




kibitzer

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Reply #16 on: May 16, 2010, 02:30:36 AM
I'm tempted to reply to that bit about the two guys blocking her way, but I think I'll leave it.

Yoko Kanno -- for mine it's "The Real Folk Blues." The way that music swells and recedes and swells again makes it an emotional and beautiful piece of music, words or no. Man, I love that song.

I thought this was a pretty flat piece. A thin patina of sci-fi to frame a story about change and generations. Really, it could have been set at any place in any time and not lost the message / feelings it tried to convey. Understand me: I'm not making a "this isn't sci-fi" play because, as I said, that's the chosen framework for this particular story, which is fine. It's just I thought it was a bit clunky and overly dramatic, what with the kitchen fire and all. And, "I've tried to keep to the spirit of McDon McDougal's"? I find that laughable. Sorry to be a little dour about this one but it didn't do much for me.

That said, a good Steve-quality reading, as ever.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2010, 05:33:43 AM by kibitzer »



Scattercat

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Reply #17 on: May 16, 2010, 04:51:44 AM
Steve's "storytime" lead-in had me rolling :D and remembering this awesome skit that I heard back in the day on the Dr. Demento Show.  I couldn't find the strait audio, only this Youtube video.  It's better if you just close your eyes (or minimize the screen) and listen to it.

Another Dr. Demento fan! Fabulous.

Wait... you mean there are people who aren't?

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Heradel

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Reply #18 on: May 16, 2010, 11:59:45 PM
In somewhat of a reverse of Steve's position, I'm not actually sure I should be weighing in here, but my complaint's a little more general than just this story, so here goes. And to be clear, I liked a lot of the story here and the restaurant itself, just not the background world.

I'm always somewhat troubled by the sorts of stories where in the face of an energy crisis that apparently kills off long-distance travel and the answer isn't that almost everyone moves into tighter-nit communities and cities (I also kinda wonder why the car is still apparently being powered directly by hydrocarbons, but that's a different story). I mean, so much of the current community structure that we experience in the States is due to public policy's preference for suburbia and individual transportation (for example, building codes that require a certain number of parking spaces per residential unit), that we here don't really have a good idea of how we would live if those preferences were scrapped. But I'm a city person who has never gotten around to taking the test for my driver's license (I can drive, but much prefer buses or subways).

I'm also slightly confused why the teenagers would bother to get somewhat ornate body modifications if they don't ever leave their houses and only really play online with their friends.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2010, 01:47:09 AM by Heradel »

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Talia

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Reply #19 on: May 17, 2010, 12:35:12 AM

I'm also slightly confused why the teenagers would bother to get somewhat ornate body modifications if they don't ever leave their houses and only really play online with their friends.

Webcams?



Heradel

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Reply #20 on: May 17, 2010, 12:44:47 AM

I'm also slightly confused why the teenagers would bother to get somewhat ornate body modifications if they don't ever leave their houses and only really play online with their friends.

Webcams?

I mean, I guess, but it seems like they're at least a decade in the future so I would really think that the CG technology at that point would either make it fairly trivial to insert objects into the webcam (Manufacturers do not recommend using CG Inserts for base clothing, as processing slowdowns may lead to inadvertent flashing) or they're just meeting in a digital world a la Second Life.

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Scattercat

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Reply #21 on: May 17, 2010, 01:44:06 AM
I'm always somewhat troubled by the sorts of stories where in the face of an energy crisis that apparently kills off long-distance travel the answer isn't that almost everyone moves into tighter-nit communities and cities

Word is Truth.  I love driving, but we recently moved to a new apartment that is about a mile from work and maybe a hundred or two hundred feet from a 24-hour grocery store and a half dozen restaurants.  We walk everywhere we need to go on a regular basis, and it is gloriously simple and easy.

To be fair, the story does point out that he gets his beef and etc. from a local supplier, so apparently there's been some re-agrarian-ification of the world.

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Reply #22 on: May 17, 2010, 02:45:55 AM
The way things are going by 2050, if not way sooner, Gramps is gonna have to take his snotty kid to such a place blind folded and be admitted only if he knows the secret handshake. The food police are steadily moving in that direction as we speak. The adults were totally alienated from the society they inhabit; and as for teenagers well they're always alienated from their elders anyhow.

A nice parting shot from Ely too, by the way.



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Reply #23 on: May 17, 2010, 01:56:12 PM

I'm also slightly confused why the teenagers would bother to get somewhat ornate body modifications if they don't ever leave their houses and only really play online with their friends.

Webcams?

To piss off their parents.  When you never see anyone else, that's about all there is to do at home.



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Reply #24 on: May 17, 2010, 01:59:30 PM
Hooray for Escape Pod's return! 

This story wasn't one of my favorites, but it was pretty good, a tale of generation gaps and just trying to get along.  I found Rack sympathetic as well as the old dudes, so I liked that aspect of the story.

The main thing that really bugged me was the fire control system.  So, in the future, there are automated fire extinguishing systems which will smother the fire and SUFFOCATE anyone who still happens to be in the room?  Does that strike anyone else as being a monumentally stupid design?  I'd rather use an old fashioned fire extinguisher if the alternative is fairly likely to CAUSE my death.