Friday, September 30, 2005

Depressing Geek Thought #3

(For some reason, a lot of these seem to come out of 'Star Wars'...)

So let's get this straight. Jango Fett is the template for the Clone Troopers, later Stormtroopers (which means Boba Fett is just a glorified stormtrooper. Sheesh. No wonder he gets dropped by a blind guy with a stick.) They ask him what he wants for his payment--payment for using his genetic material as the template for the new Imperial Army, and for essentially giving the Sith the means to conquer the galaxy. You have to figure the sky's the limit here. And what does he ask for?

"I want a little boy. And I want him to look just like me."

Ynnnngahh. I do not think there is even a term in the DSM IV for the mental disorder that makes you want to clone and molest a younger version of yourself. No wonder Jango ran so fast when Obi-Wan showed up. He thought he was from Child Protective Services.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Land of the Insane

While there's always going to be a certain debate about where the line falls between eccentricity, non-conformity, and actual mental instability, I've always thought that a useful working definition is to ask, "Is this person acknowledging reality?" That is to say, do their beliefs actually coincide with the facts? A mentally ill person might believe that all dogs are secretly surveillance robots there to spy on him. This is provably untrue; ergo, this person is not sane.

The direction political debate has taken in the United States leans towards insanity. As with so many things in life, it can all be summed up in a Doctor Who quote: "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't adjust their views to fit the facts. They adjust the facts to fit their views." As of late, people have adjusted the facts to fit their views.

Go onto any set of right-wing blogs, read a description of an event, trend, or movement. Go onto the left-wing blogs. Read the same descriptions. They are not describing the same things. It's no longer a question of interpretation--they literally do not apprehend the same reality as one another. Debate cannot continue when neither side acknowledges that the other side is accurate in basic factual contentions, let alone their views on how those facts should be interpreted. It's hard enough deciding what color to paint the house when we can't even agree on what "blue" is, let alone whether or not it's a nice color.

It's an extremely tricky problem to fix, too, because each side thinks the other has the problem. I think it's the right. I think they've been systematically devaluing the very concept of "fact" because all too often, the facts don't support their viewpoint (evolution, poverty, the economy, weapons of mass destruction, who declared a state of emergency when and where in Louisiana, going all the way back to "how many votes did the Republicans get in Florida?") But I can't be sure, because I'm on the wrong side of the viewpoint gap to see whether or not the left is distorting things.

But it's something that has to change. The news media have to be more cautious in fact-checking (especially in checking politicians' speeches--if they lie, the media have to catch it quick) at every level, from CNN down to individual blogs. Facts are too important to be subverted to ideology. There's never been a situation where you can ignore a fact to support a belief and have it not come back to bite you someday. That's why we call these people "insane" and not merely "eccentric" or "non-conformist". Because while other people might be willing to bend to accomodate your eccentricities, reality doesn't.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Saying Goodbye

I received an email this morning that Kelly O'Guinn, aka Kielle, died of cancer recently. I hadn't heard anything about her in years, but she was such a wonderfully vivid personality that my memories of her sprung to mind immediately.

It was about nine years ago, when I'd only recently discovered things like "the Internet", "fanfic", and had barely started to form the idea that I could construct plots, prose, and dialogue together into stories. I wrote a couple of things--a Doctor Who story, a Green Lantern fanfic, a big dumb DC cross-over to cancel out another big dumb DC cross-over that had irritated me--and I more or less dumped them onto the Internet with a thud.

Kielle loved them. She sent me praise, and since at the time she hosted a huge fanfic site, she made a couple of them "stories of the week" which made other people read them and send me praise. She sent me email encouraging me to write more, she laughed at my jokes and told me so, she at one point fell off her chair laughing at something I'd written, or at least she claimed to. We didn't keep in touch, but she was a wonderful person at the exact time when so many writers need wonderful people and too many don't find them. I believe I owe her a lot.

She's dead now. I didn't want to believe it, because she was just too alive a person to be dead. People like her shouldn't be allowed to die.

I don't think I've got any more words about this. I think this is the point where words run out, because you either know this place personally and they're not needed, or you don't and they're hopelessly inadequate.

So goodbye, Kielle.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Obvious Questions, 28 Days Later Edition

1. Why don't they listen to the scientist when he's screaming, "It's infectious! If you let it out, you'll kill us all?!?!?!"

2. Why, when they ask the scientist what it's infected with, does he give such an utterly crap answer? "Rage." Yes, that'll be nice and convincing to the ALF.

3. Why don't the infected attack each other?

4. How does the virus spread, given that anyone infected is now mindless, vomiting blood, and probably has severe injuries from where the infected were beating the crap out of him/her? Seriously, these guys would have a lifespan measured in minutes, hours at best. Even if we were talking "starved to death" (and it'd actually be dehydration, since they don't drink either,) it'd be no more than a day. And again--vomiting blood.

5. If the infected are nocturnal, why are they attracted to bright lights? (Yeah, OK, moths, but it's still annoying.)

6. How does a coma patient survive four weeks in the middle of an evacuation of London and its degeneration into total chaos?

7. How is it that Christopher Eccleston's character doesn't know that the infection is localized to the British Isles, given that he's commanding a military unit with access to radios, satellite communications, and helicopters? (And his actions in the film only make sense if he truly believes his group is the last outpost of humanity.)

8. How does a recovering coma patient and professional bike messenger manage to take on two or three SAS squaddies in hand-to-hand combat?

9. No, seriously, how? It's like he suddenly turns into Batman for the last half-hour of the movie.

10. ...the hell?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Great Bad Movie Lines, #2

From 'A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 5: The Dream Child':

"They say she hung herself...but they never found the body."

What exactly did they find, then? A note, a rope, and an overturned stool? This isn't like throwing yourself into the river, people. You hang yourself, and you're pretty much guaranteeing that people will find the body.

Of course, what happened was that someone wanted to bring in the idea that Freddy murdered his mother, but was hampered by previous films' continuity. So they came up with this line to retcon it...but the noble attempt failed, leaving the horror community a richer, and sillier place.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Old and Sentimental

I've been reading a few blogs from Iraq lately. I started with:

and I've picked at scattered others. They're very hard to read, because they're all about people suffering to varying degrees and both they and I know that the suffering was caused by my government. They make me feel angry and sad and defensive and apologetic and guilty and protective, and that's a lot of emotion to feel when I'm basically just surfing the web. But I can't stop checking them.

Because as long as they're updating, that means they're still alive.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Things I'd Like To Write Someday, #2956837249438

(Or somewhere near that.)

I always thought that Frank Miller was really unfair to Superman. I mean let's face it--in a fight between Batman and Superman, giving Batman as much Kryptonite as he can carry really just evens the odds to the point where Batman might actually see Superman before he gets leveled. But in 'The Dark Knight Returns' (and its sequel, 'The Dark Knight Gives Superman A Wedgie' or whatever it was called,) not only does Batman get to beat up Superman, he also gets to seize the moral high ground. Let's repeat that--a man who regularly dresses up as a bat to re-enact his childhood revenge fantasies gets to seize the moral high ground over freaking Superman.

I think that needs to change. So I'd like to write a 'Dark Knight Returns' style comic, only done from Superman's worldview. (Not, I stress, show the events of 'Dark Knight Returns' from Superman's POV.)

In this story, Superman has retired--essentially, all the work he's done for humanity over the years has finally paid off to the point where he's not needed so much anymore. Weather control is a science, advances in agriculture and energy have resulted in abundance for all, which has substantially reduced the war quotient, all the super-villains are either reformed, imprisoned, or just generally gone for good--even Gotham's now relatively tame, although there are still parts of it you wouldn't walk into at 2 AM. Clark Kent is enjoying a relatively restful career as editor-in-chief at the Daily Planet, and a happy marriage to Lois.

Then his old enemies start returning. Braniac comes back, in defiance of several intergalactic treaties Superman helped negotiate. Metallo escapes. Doomsday returns. One by one, all the villains from the bad old days start coming back, and Superman has to return to the skies to stop them. And all the while, he's trying to figure out "Who's behind all this?" It can't just be coincidence. It's never just coincidence. He goes to former President Luthor. He hunts down Vandal Savage. He digs up Darkseid. And always the same answer: It wasn't me. Clark runs himself ragged trying to save everyone and discover the truth, but when he finds it, he wishes he hadn't: Bruce Wayne is behind all this chaos.

Ultimately, peace did what decades of ceaseless struggle never could--it snapped Bruce's sanity. Bruce has discovered that he never wanted to end crime, only to fight it. The only way he could stay sane was in being Batman, and without a purpose for Batman, Bruce had to grow up. It took a different kind of courage than dodging bullets and fighting the Joker, and Bruce just didn't have it. So he started breaking out the old villains, and deep within the Batcave, he was preparing to resume his illustrious career.

Superman isn't pleased. But Batman knew he wouldn't be.

The two of them have a final, apocalyptic duel on the Wayne estate, but Bruce finds out that all these years, all the times he's put one up on Clark, all the little battles that they've fought in an unspoken rivalry that went hand-in-hand with their close friendship...Clark always let him win. Those little victories had meant so much to Bruce, and the little losses meant so little to a man who could stand in the heart of a hurricane and wring diamonds out of coal. This time, when there's something real at stake, when innocents are in danger...Clark's not playing around. Bruce is just another bad guy now. And what does Superman do, if not beat the bad guys?

And the ending is just the opposite from 'Dark Knight', as well. There, Bruce digs in to expand his personal crusade to the armies of Gotham's underclass. He's looking forward to fighting for the rest of his life. Here, Clark averts the crisis and restores peace--and he's happy to do nothing more than set aside the cape and return to his normal life. He's always wanted the best for us, and ego doesn't enter into it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Depressing Geek Thought #2

As we all know, there's a whole huge vast pile of books detailing exactly what happened after the end of 'Return of the Jedi' in the Star Wars universe. But let's face it--they were all written before Lucas redefined the terms of the game with the prequels, and a lot of the assumptions they made about the series have turned out to be wrong. (Just try reading Timothy Zahn's "Thrawn Trilogy" now, in light of what we've learned about the Clone Wars. Attempting to reconcile the two will destroy your brain.)

So let's think for a moment about what we might see in a post-'Jedi' universe now that we know everything. It all revolves around Luke...and I don't think he's destined for a happy life.

Think about it. In addition to seeing the ghost of his dead mentor, a ghost only he can see, he's now apparently being followed around by the ghost of Yoda and the departed spirit of his father. And Yoda, well, he's gotta be bitter. Luke basically took his whole philosophy of the Light Side/Dark Side dichotomy and jammed it into a toilet and gave it a swirlie; he's going to have to reprioritize his entire philosophy, and that's something that's very hard to do when you're a) 800-plus, and b) dead. Yoda's probably just going to sit there bitching at Anakin all the livelong day, stopping only to scream at Luke for training Jedi wrong.

Meanwhile, Anakin and Obi-Wan will be having their own problems. Anakin was never very likeable--smug, whiny bastard, really, and being the only one of the three who's mastered the "blue ghost" technique well enough to get a young, handsome ghost body won't help--and there's bound to be a lot of bickering there. And from Anakin's point of view, the same two schmucks who trained him so well that he wound up falling under the sway of the Dark Lord of the Sith for decades are now giving great advice to his son, too. That's going to go over real well.

Then there are the other ghosts. Oh, sure, we didn't see them--but we've learned that this is a new technique that Qui-Gon learned. At the very least, Qui-Gon should be wandering along soon, and we know he never got along with anyone on the Jedi Council. At worst...well, imagine Luke screaming "Shut up! SHUT UP!" at thin air while to his eyes, hundreds of Jedi push at each other to tell him best how to re-establish the Jedi Order. Sure, he's a respected military hero (despite spending several months effectively AWOL over the course of 'Empire'), but how long before he's committed to a sanitarium "for his own good"?

That's the ultimate death of the Jedi order. Not extermination at the hands of the Sith, but Luke, straitjacketed in a forgotten institution somewhere in the Outer Rim, begging Mace Windu to stop yelling at his dad for the whole hand thing.

Then they start in on Leia...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Under the Hood: Quest of the Delta Knights

Now this time on 'Under the Hood' (an irregular feature in which we examine how to remake and improve MST3K staples), we'll be looking at a movie that gets more airtime on the Sci-Fi channel than 'Stargate' repeats and made-for-TV movies about giant animals combined: Quest of the Delta Knights. For those of you who haven't seen it, this is a movie about a young boy/man/quite-possibly-girl who's mentored by a wise old David Warner until he's of age to find the Lost Storehouse of Archimedes (because this really all takes place in the real world, honest) with the aid of Leonardo da Vinci (because again, this really all takes place in the real world, truly) before the evil David Warner and the wicked queen he's pledged his service to (queen of where? Of somewhere in the very, very real world, because that's what this takes place in) can find it and use the Doomsday Device Archimedes apparently invented. (Oh yeah--the whole 'Delta Knights' thing is a secret society that all the good guys belong to.)

We've got our work cut out for us today, boys and girls.

In terms of production values, this one actually ain't too horrible. They filmed it at (possibly several) Renaissance Fairs, so it has somewhat of an authentically medieval look to it. However, we can use some serious acting upgrades, since they blew their entire budget on David Warner. In fact, they blew so much of their budget on David Warner that he winds up playing both the good guy and the bad guy--yet there's no reason for it in the script at all. So our first step is, charisma transfusions to both our leading men, stat, and toss out one of the two David Warners (probably the villainous one, because Warner does amazingly well at playing the Wise Old Mentor role.)

The next step is, actually ground this sucker in some history, or else give up the whole "historical setting" idea. In the movie as it's currently constituted, the name of the kingdom/state/country/land/place they're in is never given, no ruler is ever named, and the only things that wind up being from real history are Leonardo and Archimedes. Oh, and their "journey" to find the Lost Storehouse looks like it takes about fifteen minutes, because they don't have the money for two units' worth of location filming.

So let's see--if Leonardo was a young man, that'd put this at about 1470. During that time, the English were involved in a nasty and protracted war between the descendants of the House of Lancaster and the House of York, known as the Wars of the Roses. Sounds like a good starting point for a bad guy. Henry VI, who was Lancastrian, was unpopular, hung out with unpopular nobles, and was mentally unstable to boot. Sounds like a better point. So we've got our evil monarch, Henry VI. Our hero is raised and mentored by the Delta Knights (still not crazy about that name) to go find the Lost Storehouse of Archimedes and retrieve its knowledge for the enlightenment of mankind (since this is after all the Renaissance, and rediscovering the knowledge of the ancient Greeks was huge back then.) Leonardo, who's also secretly a member of the Knights, agrees to help him on their trek to Greece. But Henry captures the Wise Old Mentor and extracts the information from him. He then sends one of those aforementioned "unpopular nobles" off to trail him to the Storehouse, and seize anything good out of it.

From there, it's a good old-fashioned road movie. There's loads of real estate between England and Greece, and travel back in the 1470s was the kind of thing you did if you were rich, crazy, desperate, foolhardy, or some combination of the four. We can ditch the horrible subplot about the barmaid/whore who turns out to be the Princess of Thieves (which didn't make it into my above summary because, well, it doesn't have a goddamned thing to do with the plot) and focus more on our heroes' journey, and on the people who aid/hinder them along the way. Eventually, our heroes find the Storehouse which contains anachronistically high levels of technology, the evil noble (who we won't bother making historically authentic, because let's face it, who cares about every single minor noble?) realizes that this can turn the tide of the war, and our heroes have to make a choice--give a mad king the power over life or death for an entire country, or destroy discoveries that could revolutionize the world?

They choose the latter, blow up the Storehouse and the noble with it, and Leo goes on to paint seven Mona Lisas and write backwards, while Henry the Sixth dies in the tower of London in 1471.

It's still a little vague, but compared to the original, it's Waterford fucking Crystal.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Minor Admin Matter

Just to let the few people who've left comments know, I've turned on that irritating word verification thing--mainly because it's less irritating than two spam comments showing up in under an hour.

Great Bad Movie Lines, #1

From 'The House of the Dead':

Hero: You did all this, killed all these people, just to become immortal?! Why?
Villain: To live...forever.

You get the feeling that in the script draft, this conversation might have gone on for hours. "But why did you want to live forever?" "So that I could prolong my life indefinitely." "But why--" et cetera.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Last Vampire Story Ever

Baron von Karkus advanced on the terrified young woman, baring his fangs as she backed into the corner. With a defiant gleam in her eye, she raised the cross that Father Moran had pressed upon her with his last breath, and thrust it out at him.

"Fool," he said, knocking it aside with a single powerful sweep of his arm. "Did Father Moran fail to tell you? That cross is a symbol of the Christian faith. It only has power for a Christian...and I can sense, you are not."

"It's not the symbol?" she squeaked out, her eyes fixed on his fangs as he slowly reached out at her, savoring the moment of terror. "It's the faith?"

"Precisely, my dear. And you will have an eternity by my side to--"

"Why didn't anyone say so?" There was an instant of pain for Baron von Karkus, an instant of shrieking agony he knew that every vampire, everywhere shared with him. "I'm a Unitarian."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Zombies: A Love/Hate Relationship

There aren't a whole lot of things in "horror" movies that scare me, but I'll admit--just about every zombie movie I've watched has given me horrible nightmares. The Romero films--I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch 'Day of the Dead', the other three were grueling experiences for me. The remake of 'Dawn'--I couldn't finish watching it the first time around, I had to turn it off because it was freaking me out too bad. The comedy ones--I've watched 'Shaun of the Dead' three, four times easily, and I love it to death (I consider it the best zombie movie ever, in fact)...but I had trouble sleeping for days after watching it. Even the crap zombie movies like 'Resident Evil' and '28 Days Later' (and don't let anyone kid you, '28 Days Later' is a crap movie, despite Chris Eccleston doing yeoman's duty in trying to make his character's internal logic work) still scare the hell out of me.

So what is it that scares me about zombies so bad?

Three things. One, I think, is the theme of infection and corruption. The idea of something that can be passed on, something that slowly robs you of identity, is very chilling. Two, which is intimately tied into one, is the end result. You don't die when you become a zombie, you're not that lucky. You lose your mind, your personality, you just become a shambling vegetable that doesn't understand anything except killing and eating. As someone who values their mind, it's pretty damn scary. And three is the sense of scale involved. It's not just one person, or even five or six. It's not like the 'Friday the 13th' movies (or the slasher film of your choice), where you can say, "Well, why did you go out to the deserted summer camp where the last 75 counselors have been murdered? DUH!" It's happening everywhere, there's no escaping it, it's the whole world. Romero doesn't just kill people, he murders civilization itself.

But what always frustrates me about zombie stories is that they skip over the interesting bit. 'Dawn of the Dead' has everyone hide in a mall while they watch the interesting bit happen on TV. '28 Days Later' just has the character wake up from a coma and the bad stuff has already happened. Ditto with 'The Walking Dead', a comic that essentially takes the same starting point, but keeps going with the characters on an ongoing basis. Nobody ever asks the question I want to ask:

How hard would we fight to preserve what we have?

Romero treats it as a foregone conclusion. He thinks that the act of re-killing our loved ones, our friends and family, is just too instinctively revulsive and terrifying to achieve. In 'Dawn of the Dead', the few who insist that the walking dead have to be killed no matter what are greeted with scorn and anger, and the zombies overrun us as a result. We don't even see it, really; we're hiding from the war with the survivors, the people who've shut themselves away because fighting back isn't even an option.

I think fighting back would be an option. That's the story I'd want to tell; not what happens after the end of the world, but why the end of the world doesn't happen for another day. Someday, I'd love to tell it (and anyone who owns a publishing company and has money going spare, feel free to pay attention to that.) It'd be the 'War and Peace' of killer zombie movies.

Until then, though, zombies will continue to scare the crap out of me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Some Potential Unmade Doctor Who Stories

The Death of Fear
Daleks of the Daleks
Terror of the Fear
City of Webs
The Planet of Hands
The Curse of Robots
Planet of the City
Web of the Daleks
Cybermen of the Daleks
The Mind of the Enemy
The Face of the Hands of the Mind of the Evil Death Robots

Getting Some Perspective

In 1936, the Spanish military declared a coup against the (relatively) legitimate government of Spain, starting a civil war that would drag on for three long years. One of the principal points of contention was the role of the Catholic Church in the Spanish Republic; the military quickly gained support of Catholics, and territory they controlled was considered to be highly religious.

In the Republic-controlled territory, things were quite the opposite. The military's identification with the Catholic Church inflamed already-high tensions against the Catholic hierarchy and faith in the Republic; as a result, over the course of the war, over 7000 priests were murdered by angry citizens and militiamen. Bodies of Catholic priests and nuns were disinterred and displayed publicly. Churches were burned by the dozens, even hundreds. Angry militias broke into private homes, removed crucifixes and bibles, and burnt them. Thousands were killed for their faith by the time Fancisco Franco finally completed his overthrow of the Republican government in 1939. (Franco was guilty of his own set of wartime atrocities as well, including the bombing of civilian cities such as Guernica and the mistreatment and murder of hundreds of military prisoners.)

Think about this the next time you hear someone claim that liberals are trying to "outlaw religion" by asking that the Ten Commandments be removed from a public courthouse.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stargate: SG-10

"Welcome to the Stargate Exploration Teams," General Hammond said to the group of new recruits. "Now, I'm sure you're eager to explore new dimensions, so if you could just all put on these uniforms and head on out?"

"Sir," asked one of the new recruits, "why are our new uniforms all red jumpsuits?"

"Good question, Corporal Whoever," Hammond barked out. "And one you can answer by putting it on and going through the Stargate. We'd send SG-1, but they're on an assignment right now to find out what happened to SG-3. They went through the Stargate to an uncharted dimension, and never reported back."

The recruits looked at each other. They shrugged. "It could be worse," one of them said. "We could be new students at Sunnydale Senior High."

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Jinx Is Complete

Vikings lost home opener. Now declaring a national day of mourning.

(The jinx in question would be seasonal; the Timberwolves and Twins, respectively the basketball and baseball teams for MN, both went into this season favored. Both underperformed spectacularly and missed/will miss the playoffs. The Vikings are going into this season heavily favored. I don't want to say, "Oh, God, no, please make it stop," but...)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Billion Dollar Idea

And I'm giving it away for free. Why? Because you'd need 500 million dollars to fund it, that's why.

It'd be a chain of stores that sold DVDs, like Suncoast; however, when you went in, there wouldn't be any physical DVDs. Instead, there'd be catalogs/displays/empty cases to browse through, filled with listings of movies and TV shows. When you knew what you wanted, you'd walk up to the counter, and tell the salesperson...

And they would connect to a (highly secure) server on a high-speed line, burn the DVD for you, print out a sleeve and slip it into a jewel case, and you would walk out with it.

Think about the huge advantages. No DVD would ever be out of print. Inventory management would be just a question of, "How many blank discs do we need to stock?" You could continue to reap profits on films that have been out for ages, because you wouldn't have to estimate demand. It's got all the bonuses of Print On Demand for the book industry, only it's quicker, easier, and it's what the public is already practically doing. Plus, you could allow people to select and add as many special features as they want ("that comes with the commentary track, would you like to add on a theatrical trailer and 'making of featurette'?") You'd have a lower overhead, and thus would be able to sell DVDs cheaper than any other chain in the industry.

Of course, there are issues. One, the "highly secure server". You'd need to make sure it was very, very, very highly secure. Securing the server and keeping it secure would, in fact, be your highest ongoing business expense. Two (and two is the reason I'm giving the idea away), you'd have to get at least one major studio to sell you the rights to its film library for use in this fashion (or lease, hire, rent, or whatever agreement you'd care to come to), and probably several if you wanted to have the kind of selection you'd need to have to compete with Suncoast and Best Buy. And the money you'd need to do that...well, I'd estimate nine figure sums, and probably a percentage of the profits as well.

But once you got the astronomical start-up costs out of the way, wow, would it be a money-maker.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Apartment Search

(Just a fragment, don't have time for more, but may follow up later)

Janice took the young man up the steps to the door. "This is one of our two-bedrooms," she said, smiling politely at him as she took out the keys. She unlocked the door, and opened it with a flourish as she gestured into the foyer. "As you can see, it opens onto an en suite kitchen, and up the stairs, you'll find the bedrooms. I can--"

"It's perfect," he said, as he stepped through the doorway. "Just what I'm looking for. Cozy, affordable, zombie-proof...does it have a laundry hookup?"

"Why, yes, it..." Her brain finally caught up with his sentence. "Zombie-proof?"

"Yes. It's the stairs, you see. Zombies have real trouble with steps. And the door is nice and sturdy too, but I don't really expect them to make it up here, not with the ground-floor tenants so appetizing and accessible."

"Oh." She wasn't really sure how to follow that up.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Loving the Muppets, this has nothing to do with Skeeter. This is a strictly platonic love.

What I love about the old Muppet Show (1976-1980) is the way it preserves a little slice of history for us to remember. Not the history of its time, although there's plenty of zeitgeist stuck in there (Florence Henderson? Crystal Gayle?) But the way it actually snatches away little bits of history while they're still on the dim fringes of living memory.

Vaudeville is pretty much dead in the year 2005. I dont think this is a controversial statement. We no longer know what it's like to go to a theater and sit with a crowd, singing along to classic old songs, listening to comedians with well-worn, time-tested material, and watching song-and-dance routines from famous touring performers. We don't need to. TV, movies, video games, plays, the Internet, and CD music have pretty much obliterated the set of cultural conditions that brought about the old vaudeville circuit. But Henson realized, in some way, that the actual material of vaudeville needed to be immortalized.

Through the Muppets, he did. Fozzie Bear is an old Borscht Belt comedian in fur. The songs are classic vaudeville standards--I learned the words to 'Lydia, the Tattooed Lady' from Kermit the Frog. And as for song-and-dance routines from famous touring performers: Ethel Merman, Ben Vereen, Sandy Duncan, and Gene Kelly, and that's just to dip one's toes in. And that, in turn, is the even more beautiful thing about the Muppet Show; the list of guest stars was so eclectic as to become a spectrum of the human achievements in art. They didn't go for whoever was hot, fresh, and young; they went for people who were quirky, unique, and in their own way immortal. Gene Kelly delivers a truly awe-inspiring rendition of 'Singing in the Rain' one week, and Alice Cooper sings 'School's Out' the next. And all delivered to Jim Henson's immortal rules of comedy: If you can't figure out how to end a sketch, have one character eat another, blow something up, or start tossing animals around.

It's beautiful that these shows are being preserved on DVD, because they, in turn, are preserving our culture in the only way possible in the pre-VHS era; by repeating it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Still sick, so I probably won't do this justice, but...

Anyone noticed the way that homophobes try to couch their opposition to gay marriage in "public safety" terms? The basic assertion is thus: "I'm not homophobic; I'm just trying to protect the institution of marriage." This is a blatant dodge, and I urge everyone engaged in debate with people who are opposed to gay marriage to ask the obvious consequential question that the media doesn't seem to ask:

"So does that mean that you think gay people are dangerous?" Because that's the conclusion. If marriage must be "protected" from gay people, gay people must be dangerous to it. That leads to the next consequential question: "How?" Exactly what do they think that the consequences will be of opening marriage to gay people? How will it affect the institution? I guarantee you, probe at the question for long enough, and they'll be forced to admit that at heart, they're just not comfortable with gay people getting married "just like them". And that's not protection. That's homophobia.

And keep one thing in mind; the people who opposed integration of the public school system said the same thing. "I'm not racist; I just want to protect the children." And the same question had to be, and was, asked then: "Protected from what?"

Monday, September 05, 2005

Quick and Dirty

Feeling tired, feeling sick, no writing yesterday due to standing water in the basement and the resultant plumber-related timesink, and not much today either. (Yeah, I know, I promised not to talk about myself. To quote Guindon, "I don't want to wallow in self-pity, but can I maybe dip my toes in a little?")

So I'll just leave you with this thought: Nature worship would never have gotten started if the human race had come out of Minnesota because nature spends six months of the year inconveniencing us and the other six actively trying to kill us.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Six Most Dangerous Words

And no, they're not "The Bush Administration has a plan." (Sorry, Molly Ivins.)

The six most dangerous words in the English language are, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." It's one of those stupid phrases people use to end debates, a way to conveniently duck any issues of whether or not they can coherently defend their opinion or articulately explain their problems with someone else's. It's a phrase only used by people who shouldn't use it, and it is, as a concept, devastating to political and cultural motion.

Think about it. I'm a creationist, whose last contact with science was senior year of high school. You're an evolutionary biologist who's spent every day of their lives keeping up with the latest developments in the field, and who knows backwards and forwards concepts it'd take me years to pick up on anything more than the most superficial level. Why should I be "entitled" to an opinion contrary to yours?

I'm a politician who's spent the last three years explaining how the leadership of a foreign nation possessed chemical weapons they could deploy against us, was attempting to obtain nuclear weapons, and was affiliated with a terrorist organization that had made strikes against our country. The evidence clearly and persuasively shows that I'm wrong, and possibly that I'm deliberately lying. Why should I be "entitled" to continue to hold those opinions?

I'm a religious activist with a belief that gay people are "dangerous" to human civilization, and must be dissuaded from their sexual inclination by any means necessary. My only evidence for this is an old book which I believe to be the inerrant word of the divine creator (and my only evidence for that is an old book which I believe to be the inerrant word of the divine creator, and my only evidence for that...) Why should I be "entitled" to hold to that belief?

Understand, I'm not talking about the right to free speech here. If you want to go around saying that black people are inferior to white people genetically, nobody can stop you, and nobody should be allowed to stop you. But that's not an opinion you should be allowed to hold unchallenged, and it's not an opinion you should be free to disseminate unopposed. Because the saying is 100% wrong. Nobody is entitled to their opinion. Everyone has to earn it by thinking about it, studying it, defending it, and considering it. And if you're not willing to do that, then no. You're not entitled to your opinion. But others are entitled to tell you to shut up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

For Something Positive's Kim

The ninja stood, alone, on the rooftop. His mind silently went through the kataguchi-o-nuri meditations designed to keep him in a constant state of catlike readiness, calm yet alert. He knew, though, that he would not need to maintain this pose for long. His foe would be here soon enough.

And indeed, within minutes, he felt rather than heard the approach of the ancient enemy of his clan--indeed, of all ninjas. The spider monkey had arrived.

The ninja drew his sword. The spider monkey unslung a deadly obachi-hikaru from his matted fur, and swung it in a slow, lazy circle. The ninja's eyes narrowed. Few knew how to properly utilize an obachi-hikaru, being hampered by the fact that such a thing was, in actuality, just a collection of random "Japanese-sounding" syllables. This spider monkey was truly a master of his craft.

The ninja stared at the spider monkey. The spider monkey stared at the ninja. The music swelled dramatically.

"This time," the ninja shouted as the two charged each other, "we fight until we are SLEEPY!"

(Inspiration provided by:

Thursday, September 01, 2005

D&D Memories

I was thinking about Dungeons and Dragons today, and it turned my mind to the old D&D cartoon from the early 80's. At first, on thinking about it, I decided that the writers knew almost nothing about the game. A few generic fantasy monsters, a few terms from the DMG, and hey presto, it's licenced goodness! But then I started giving it more serious thought...

...and I realized, the D&D cartoon is an almost perfect simulation of the game. Think about it--every gamer has joined a group like this. The DM is a weird, ugly little guy with no social skills; when you show up, he won't let you make your own characters and instead "assigns" them to you to make a more "balanced party". There are a bunch of homebrew classes he made up himself that are either rip-offs of existing classes, but without any of the balances ("You're not a Paladin--you're a Cavalier. It's like a Paladin, but you don't have any alignment restrictions so you can be a whiny little bitch.")...or are absolutely useless. ("You're an Acrobat. It, you bonuses to Tumbling.")

Then he starts handing out the magic items. Some people get awesome ones ("it's a bow that shoots lightning arrows!"), others get...well, it's a stick. And it gets longer. Yeah, sure, it's a total coincidence he gave that to a female character. And then, of course, the guy who he decided to take an instant, inexplicable dislike to gets the cursed magical item. (Try to tell me with a straight face that wizard's hat isn't cursed. Just try it.)

And then, you start playing. And you've got an objective, like "Let's try to get home," but it becomes really blatantly obvious early on that the adventure is running on rails, to the point that the DM writes himself in as a character to steer you along. You realize you're never going to get anywhere with the story arc, and after a while, you just lose interest.

...and yet, you still have fond memories of it years later. Yep, sounds like a D&D campaign to me.