gratuitous image
16 October 1996

Aboard the HMS Calliope

I went to the premiere of Diana Thater's piece The Wicked Witch of the West - 1996 on the drill deck of the HMS Calliope. Thater's piece was tedious in the extreme, even though it was the first example of purported video art I've seen this year that didn't involve someone underwater.

The HMS Calliope, however, was extraordinary example of virtual reality. Her Majesty's "Ship" was in fact a nondescript building with a parking lot. All the members pretended it was a real ship with such thorough conviction that once they walked in the door they were for all intents and purposes at sea. They didn't go to the toilet or the bathroom; they headed for the head in their regulation shiny shoes. And when they went back to what passes for the real world they "went ashore."

All was not well aboard the HMS Calliope. A ne'er do well technician who set up Thater's piece discovered the weapons locker. "It wasn't hard," he said, "it was the only unmarked door in the whole place." He thought the weapons were pretty shoddy too: "When I hold a big automatic rifle I want to feel steel, not plastic."

Anyway, the HMS Calliope's weaponry was useless against her real adversaries. The local kids like to attack the base by rolling tires filled with gasoline down the hill. It's a problem even the best naval minds haven't addressed.

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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart