But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Truth IS Out There

First off, and with having no pertinence to this post, I can’t put italics in my titles. This one should be “The Truth is Out There.” On with the show.

Wow. For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting the X-Files on Netflix (streaming in HD on my Wii). I never knew how good this show really was. Don’t get me wrong. I knew it was good. I just never knew it was magnificent.

The director is a genius, pure and simple. Much of the show is just standard “point the camera at the action” shots, but once or twice every episode, there’s a shot that makes me say “wow. This guy is amazing.”

The storylines are as good as anything from B5 or DS9. From watching the first season and a half, I can’t even begin to imagine why this show isn’t still running. Every episode is engaging, gripping and worth watching. I’ve already skipped one episode, but only because I saw it so many times on TV. There are two other episodes that I’ve seen over and over again, but I won’t skip them when I get to them, because they are just that good.

I’ve read interviews where Chris Carter talks about “mythology episodes” that advance the plotlines of the show, versus other episodes that don’t. Personally, I haven’t come across an episode yet that didn’t have some bearing on the overall X-Files mythos.

I’m watching it right now, and… wow. I just can’t get enough of this show. This has got to be the one great show that Fox let run a good long time. The acting is well above par for TV sci-fi, which I credit mostly to the director, judging by the fact that I’ve never seen Gillian Anderson in anything else. Also some great guest actors and irregulars. For example, the iconic “smoking man” and the conspiracy theorist lone gunmen. Even the bounty hunter, who acts very little, is skillfully employed by writers and director to great effect.

I’m watching the whole series because I want to watch the recent movie, but I feel like I need the background. If you’ve never watched The X-Files from beginning to end, you must. This is, in my opinion, the very best of horror science fiction. It’s not super scary, but it’s got a certain visceral element of horror to it. If you are any kind of sci-fi fan, you will love it. You might not love every episode, but you will love the whole series.

Dude. Don’t get a Dell.


So disappointed right now. So I bought this laptop a couple months ago. Very cool machine. Beautiful toy. Big and powerful. No complaints in that respect. That being said: piece of junk. Piss-pool design, poorly manufactured, breaks down after a few  months of less than normal wear. The body is cheap, bendy plastic. I can push the bottom of the screen and it bends. The hinge that opens and closes the laptop seems to be designed to ensure that it will break outright after less than a year of regular use. The webcam lens is located precisely where you’re most likely to put your finger when you open the laptop.

Now there are dead spots in the touchscreen. There’s about a one-inch square towards the top of my screen where I have to put a lot of pressure behind my finger to make it register. Forget about a long press.

That’s the only functional problem so far, but the thing is going to break. I can feel it every time I touch it. This laptop is super cool, and it’s pretty powerful, but it was designed by a first-year art student with no background in engineering or mechanics. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if this machine lasts the two years I need it for.

So disappointed. I’ll be overpaying for a Vaio next time. Touchscreen be damned. Or I’ll just live with my Android device. Unbelievably disappointed. I don’t know what else to say. Don’t buy a Dell laptop. Technically very cool, but physically they’re shitboxes. I just feel duped. Anybody else have any experience with Dell being shit? Or not? What about other laptops? Kerry has a refurbished Vaio and it’s awesome. I don’t know about HP, Toshiba or any of the smaller brands. I know my mom’s little bitty Acer isn’t too bad. Who’s got an opinion?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sport or Not

Ryan Valentine scores the goal that keeps Wrex...

Image via Wikipedia

Got this article from the Google. I shared and wrote a quick blurb about why gaming is not a sport.

Then I remembered all the other things that aren’t sports but most people think they are. So, here’s my list of rules for deciding whether or not something is a sport. This is similar to George Carlin’s list, but I feel mine is far more rational.

1. It has to be a game. Running is not a sport. Running is a mode of transport. Nascar, with it’s convoluted point system, could technically be considered a game. Boxing is not a game. Skiing is not a game. Gymnastics and figure skating are not games.

2. There must be a ball, or other similar focal object. Hockey, baseball, rugby, ultimate frisbee all qualify. Nacsar does not.

3. Scoring must be 100% objective. If there is room for debate as to whether something is worth a point, you’re not playing a sport. Anything with a “judge” as opposed to a “referee” is not a sport. A judge decides how many points you get for what you just did. A ref decides if you broke any rules while doing it.

4. Death must be a reasonable risk for a physically fit individual. If you can’t be killed as a direct result of participating in the game, it’s not a sport. Golf is hereby disqualified. No, Nascar is not back in. Heart attack as a result of physical stress does not count. You died because you pushed yourself too hard, not because you were running. If it cannot be said “he would have lived a long life, were it not for baseball,” the death scenario does not qualify the activity as a sport. A baseball to the head can kill a guy. A hockey skate in the throat can kill a guy. If walking to the next hole kills you, golf didn’t kill you: your fat ass did.

5. Armor. If armor is necessary to prevent physical injury or death, you can wear it and still be playing a sport. If it is not necessary and you wear it anyway, you are no longer playing a sport. Bye-bye football. Football is rugby for pussies. There’s no armor in rugby. Football is disqualified. It seems as though this rule is aimed directly at football, and it somewhat is. That being said, I never wear armor when I play football. I play it as a sport (but for rule 7). Hockey has armor because without it the sport would be a meat grinder on ice.

6. You must be an athlete to participate in a sport. A second disqualification for golf and Nascar, and one for curling. Bottom line: if a fat guy can win, it’s not a sport. I suppose that’s another disqualification for football as well. Fat guys win that all the time. Those guys could just as effectively be big, muscley Conans. Then they’d be athletes. But it’s way easier to be fat insntead. Disqualified.

7. No derivative of another game is a sport. Football is a pussy derivative of soccer and rugby. Softball is a pussy derivative of baseball (who’s rules and equipment are different enough from cricket to be considered a different game and not a derivative). Water polo is a wet derivative of… soccer? Basketball? If you want to play baseball, play f&*#ing baseball. Why is there no women’s baseball league? Because women can’t be good enough athletes to play baseball, so they need their own separate game that requires a little less hand-eye coordination and a lot less strength. Some uber-feminists say housewives devalue other women. I say it’s softball players. Here is a set of people who could certainly play baseball (a real sport). But they choose instead to do what is socially appropriate to their gender. Why don’t Americans play soccer and rugby? Because we’re all a bunch of pussies who are more concerned with our physical well-being than with having any real spectacle at the coliseum, so we need our own special sport in which nobody gets hurt and there is time in between things for commercial breaks. Why don’t muggles play quidditch? Well, because we can’t fly.

8. No method of combat or form of racing can ever be considered a sport, regardless of any other qualifications. Fencing is not a sport. Cycling is not a sport. Swimming, bobsled, skiing and shooting are not sports. Rugby is on the line.

If it breaks two or more of these rules, it is not a sport. If it only breaks one rule, I’m willing to discuss, unless it only breaks rule 7 or rule 8. Those are non-negotiable. Softball and fighting need to cease being legitimized with the label of “sport” and start being conceived of as barbaric (softball especially). I’m not above adding rule 9 to disqualify a specific activity. I’m tempted to make rules about specialized equipment and goal areas, but I don’t think they’re necessary.

I don’t mean to say that, because something is not a sport, there’s anything negative about it. It’s just that “sport” has become such a loose categorization that driving around in circles (or in a straight line) is something that most Americans consider a sport. You can be an athlete and not participate in a sport. But you cannot participate in a sport (with any degree of success) without being an athlete. Video games are not a sport, and the mere fact that someone would argue that they are is disgusting.

I mentioned quidditch above, and I will re-mention it here. Quidditch barely makes it as a sport, due to its ridiculous scoring scheme. The game goes on and on, with each goal worth a single point. When the snitch is caught, the team that catches it receives 150 points, making the whole rest of the game pretty much meaningless. Clearly, the strategy here is put your best man as the seeker and your two biggest as the beaters. The beaters should never leave the seeker’s side because he’s the only player that means anything. If he gets knocked off his broom, you lose. The rest of the team can be filled-in with whomever shows up for tryouts, because they don’t matter. It’s like the fat guys in football. They just need to be fat and be able to get in the way. Same with quidditch. You need to be able to ride a broom and stay out of the way, because you’re not scoring 151 points in the time it takes the seekers to catch the snitch. Quidditch is of course summarily disqualified for not being a sport that actual humans can play, but it comes close to disqualification due to general silliness.

I know somebody has a dissenting opinion. Let’s have it. Softball players, tell me how empowering it is to beat other women in a game that no man plays professionally.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hope Anew: chapter 2

Okay. A quick intro. Here’s chapter two of what I have decided to call “hope anew.” A little cheesy, I know. But it serves the dual purpose of letting you know exactly what you’re reading with very little ambiguity and saying “maybe Star Wars doesn’t have to suck.” So, without further dudes, here’s draft one of part two:

A sound woke the young man. Something loud. A metal crash, then footsteps. The boy opened his eyes to barely a slit. Enough to see, but not enough to be detected if someone else was looking at him. The room was dark. He could just see the ocean out his bedroom window. There was nothing out there. Why should there be? The noise came from the corridor. He could see the soft green light spilling in beneath the door. Again, he heard the footsteps.

Not his father's footsteps. Not his mother's either. Certainly not the whir-clank of C-3PO. They stopped outside the door to his bedroom. The boy was only a little afraid. If there was someone in the house who wasn't supposed to be, the guards would not let them near his room. It was probably one of them out in the hallway. One of the guards had knocked over a wall hanging in the corridor and was trying to be quiet about cleaning it up. That must be it.

He closed his eyes and sank back into his bedding. He heard the door hiss open. This time he didn't bother opening his eyes. It was just the guard looking in on him. They all did that. They all loved his father, and by extension most of them were quite fond of the young master himself. Far from startling him further, the additional noise comforted the young prince. What he heard next did not comfort him.

“Luke.” A woman's stern voice, not his mother's, at the side of his bed. “Luke, I know you're awake and I know you can hear me.” Luke Organa opened his eyes. He started at the sight that met him. A woman knelt beside his bed. She was dressed in a black, sleeveless jumpsuit. Her hair was hidden under a cap. A little of it spilled out, and Luke was struck by its silvery color.

“Don't speak,” the woman said. Luke was inexplicably compelled to obey. “The guards are dead.” His eyes went suddenly wide. Luke would have gasped, but some indescribable force kept him from making a sound. “They have taken your father,” she continued. Luke's fear gave way to a compulsion to act. He found that he could not move. His face displayed his consternation. He was confused. What was happening?

“You need to come with me now. There's no time to talk. Just come along. Nod if you understand.” Luke nodded once. He trusted the young woman, though he could not explain why.

The woman walked to the window and looked down the face of the building. Luke's small apartment was on the third floor of the senator's mansion. It was not an especially long way down, but the boy might be injured. Injured, but not permanently damaged. The risk was acceptable. She held out her hand. Luke threw back the bedding and sprang up from the bed. His hand gently grasped her elbow.

This caught her off-guard for an instant. She had not been expecting this. Had not expected him. The Emperor had sent her to kidnap a boy. Here, she found a young man. It was nothing, but she was expecting a child, to be led around by the hand, not a youth who was going to want to help her kidnap him. That would not do. She slapped his hand, sensed his momentary shock, then his realization that this was not the moment for gallantry.

Delani waved him away from the window, then took a step back herself. From her utility belt, she removed a small molecular destabilizer. It wasn't powerful enough to injure a person, but it would certainly do a job on the window. She tossed it at the transparasteel pane. The device struck its target without a sound and fell to the ground outside, shattering upon impact. Moving swiftly, Delani stuck her head out the opening, checked the area below for any guardsmen she may have left alive. There were none.

The woman yanked her head back into the room. She turned quickly to the young prince, saying simply: “go.” Luke looked down to the ground below, and then looked at her. The trust he had somehow felt only a moment ago seemed now a little less automatic; a little less infinite. He was uncertain of whether or not to obey this woman.

“What do you mean, go?” She grabbed him by the arm and threw him against the wall beside the opening.

“Stay here or come with me,” she growled. “Decide now.” She didn't want to kill this boy, but she would if she couldn't get him to come with her. Luke threw her off of him, hesitated for half a moment before launching himself out the window. She followed directly after him. He had surprised Delani. She had underestimated him. That made her uncomfortable, and she resolved that it would not happen again.

As Luke followed her brisk jog through the courtyard, the absence of the house guards unsettled him. The mysterious woman had told him they were dead, but he hadn't realized that she meant all of them. Even then, where were the bodies? That wasn't important right now. At this moment, they needed to escape from whatever had killed them and had taken his father. Luke saw that the woman had already reached the front gate. He ran to catch up with her.

The gate had already been opened, presumably by the intruders that had killed the guards. They ran through it and turned left, heading West toward the landing field. From this distance, Luke could make out the silhouette of a lambda-class interstellar shuttle. He knew how to fly it. He had been taught to pilot all kinds of ships. His instructors had always complimented him on his abilities.

The closer the pair grew to the landing field, the clearer it became to Luke that the craft was not a Lambda-class, but an Imperial Landing Craft. This he also knew how to pilot, though he had never received instruction.

Once, when he was nine years old, Luke had snuck out to the landing field while a squadron of Imperial troopers was doing whatever Imperial troopers did. He had slipped unseen into the ship and studied the controls. When he noticed the troopers returning to their vessel, he stood at the bottom of the boarding ramp and saluted. As the small column marched past him up the ramp, they had turned their heads in his direction and returned the gesture. At the time, Luke had thought himself Emperor of the galaxy. Looking back on it now, he thought he understood. He was mistaken.

Pouring on speed, Luke thought to beat the woman to the craft, impressing her with his ability to pilot it. But as he gained speed, so did she. She stayed a constant distance in front of him and arrived at the boarding ramp first. As she took the first step up the ramp, two imperial troopers appeared in the doorway above.

Seeming to Luke to be startled, she leaped back, landing between the young man and the white-armored soldiers, their blaster rifles leveled at her. Delani took a moment to steady herself, and thrust her left hand at the troopers, palm forward, fingers clawed, then wrenched it back over her shoulder. The two men flew into the air and sailed across the landing field, back toward the house, landing thirty meters or so behind Luke.

The woman tossed a smirk over her shoulder at the young noble, then sprinted up the boarding ramp. Luke took half a moment to glance behind him at the stormtroopers crumpled on the ground behind him. He allowed himself a smile of surprise as he ran up the ramp after his rescuer.

“Strap in,” she called over her shoulder as she sat down in the pilot's chair. He sat in the co-pilot seat beside her and started the launch sequence. Delani was again surprised by the young man. She sensed what he was doing, sensed that he was doing it properly, and set about the task of setting the astrogation circuit.

“My name is Delani Rowan,” the woman said to her young co-pilot, as the shuttle left the ground and sped away from the landing field. “You're Luke Organa. I'm here to rescue you.”

So here’s the deal. Star Wars was such a rip off of Dune that Frank Herbert didn’t want to make a movie any more because he didn’t think anybody would be interested in seeing the same story told again in a slightly different setting. Luke Skywalker was meant to play the part of Paul Atreides, at which he failed miserably (see earlier post). So I’ve decided to make Luke Organa the same person (or at least as close as I can reasonably come) as Paul Atreides, at least initially. At least in spirit. Most of what we see of Paul is later in his life, and by that time Luke will be a different person, but young Luke and young Paul will be basically the same guy.

He’ll grow up differently of course, but to start out we’re dealing with the same pampered son of an important noble. He’s had flight training. He’s had self-defense training. He has a basic understanding of military strategy. He’s being groomed for a command position. Not, in this instance, to follow in his father’s footsteps. Lucas made that mistake with Leia. She was a senator in her own right and it never made any sense, nor had any bearing on the story. Current senator’s children don’t get elected to serve in the same office at the same time.

Getting back to the story: I had initially put in a bit where Luke thought he was being rescued by Winter, who was his nanny when he was small. A reference to the character in the Thrawn Trilogy who played the same role for Leia. I thought it made sense. Delani did the equivalent of Doctor Who’s psychic paper trick, and Luke saw what he needed to see: someone he would trust unconditionally, if only for the brief amount of time it took him to realize that it wasn’t really her. It was a nod to a character that I enjoyed and told the reader that this is a woman who knows how to manipulate people, but didn’t yet come right out and say “force-user.”

Kerry thought it was clumsy and didn’t add anything to the story and felt like I was just trying to pack in too much nostalgia for no good reason. She was of course right, so I took it out. I only just now went through and cleaned it up properly. There were still references to Winter in the version that i sent to anyone before today (lookin’ at you mom(s)).

I said I was going to call them stormtroopers just this once, but I didn’t. I restrained myself. If it was unclear at any point that I was talking about dudes in white armor with door-frame attractant sprayed across their foreheads, I will fix it.

Paul C: As I re-read this, I still feel like there’s that staccato you mentioned before. I don’t think it’s as pronounced as before (I’ve been through this bit since then), but it’s definitely still there. I maintain that it’s just the way I write. I wrote a lot of bad poetry in the time before time, and paid a lot of attention to meter (the only hard and fast rule of poetry, in my opinion). So I guess it’s just kind of ingrained in my style, even though I’m consciously not writing verse.

But, like I said before, I’m not writing this for me to read. I’m writing it for an audience, of which you are a member. If the staccato(ness?) makes you not want to read any more, I should definitely change it. I’m not Cormac McCarthy.

Thanks for the Feedback

I do really appreciate the mechanical comments, but what I really want is story comments. Do you believe this? Do you believe the characters and the setting? Am I making real people here, or just place holder characters? Most importantly: does this feel too much like Star Wars? I really want to distance myself from that as much as is reasonable.

I tried really hard in the first bit to toss all the old Star Wars jargon out the window but keep it at the same time. I still called it a droid, but I also called it a mech and a robot (totally unprecedented in the context of Star Wars). I called it a lightsaber, but I also called it what it is: a sword.

I just feel like Star Wars has always been about setting and buzzwords that suck you in and make you go "oooooooooo!!! What's a "lightsaber?!" I want to distract from that with an honest-to-god good story, and if I keep saying "Droid," people are going to expect Anthony Daniels, when in reality C-3PO and R2-D2 never behaved like the robots that they ought to be.

I just want to say "look, this is obviously Star Wars, but it's not the same Star Wars you're familiar with. It will be a lot easier for you to accept that if I don't keep reminding you of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher by saying things like lightsaber and stormtrooper." And I will say those things, because everybody knows what a stormtrooper is. But that's not their name anymore. Now their "Imperial soldiers," or the derogatory "plasticmen." Naming them "stormtroopers" is like naming the Navy SEALS "death divers."

Yeah. They're Navy guys who are very good at killing people. But it's a bad idea to give your own forces ominous, scary names. I get that the Empire is a rule-by-fear organization, but calling your men on the ground "stormtroopers" makes everybody hate them as much as they fear you. These aren't policemen. They're not soldiers. They're stormtroopers. These are the guys we send in when regular army just won't get the job done without all getting killed. And now we're using them as law enforcement too. No wonder there's a rebellion every Thursday. bottom line: you can't name your cops "stormtroopers."

You can have guys called "stormtroopers," but they're not the bulk of your army. They're the three squads of commandoes that nobody is supposed to know about, but everybody does. Because it IS a good idea for the people that you want to fear you to have someone other than you to evince that fear. When somebody hears "stormtrooper" they don't think "the guys from the local garrison." They think: "Stormtroopers? Here? Pack it up. We're moving to the next continent." Because nobody wants to be on the same landmass as Darth Vader's hand-picked squad of super-soldiers except the whores and the guy who runs the ammo shop.

Droids aren't named "droids" anymore because, to be perfectly honest, most of them aren't. Droid is short for android, which denotes a machine in the shape of a man. R2-D2 doesn't fit that bill. Neither do almost all of the other robots seen in the Star Wars movies that aren't C-3PO.

So in this first bit I called it a droid. Well, I'll be calling them "stormtroopers" once as well. But only once, the first time I introduce one, so that everybody knows I'm talking about the guys in white plasteel armor with funny helmets and blaster rifles who bump their heads on doors all the time. After that first scene, they'll always be "imperial soldiers" or "imperial troops" or "troopers."

I don't know if we'll have stormtroopers. Now I kinda like the idea, but I've already got the story pretty well fleshed out (wait until you see my Death Star) and haven't decided if I want to add another mechanism. So, as I post more of the story, please, continue with the grammarictionarisms. I need to know where I need to improve my writing. But what I really, really want to know is: do you believe this and does it feel too much like Star Wars?