Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Speaking of Arcades: Here's Pitfall!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Joys of Being a Writer: So it's one thirty in the morning and I can't sleep because I'm trying to finish a story for the Anthology From Hell, and I have Santa being held captive and one of his elves is trying to break him free and I'm stuck for ideas for how to do it.

I could have the reindeer rip the bars off the cell, but that's been done to death.

Could the elf pass for a demon? Beat up a guard? Abandon Santa and flee back to the North Pole, disappointed? Enlist the help of Merlin or Rasputin, who are in the same prison?

Ah, the things that keep writers up late.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Top Ten: The illustrious Jarrod S. has managed to crack the David Letterman top ten list for this week at the show's website.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Card in the Journal:They've reprinted one of Card's Ornrey essays in the Wall Street Journal.

And he has the fortunate position, like myself, of not having to equivicate his position one tiny bit following this bit of news or this bit of news, both of which should really help the naysayers understand.

We were in Iraq to send a message. And the world is saying, "Message received."

Original LOTR Reviews: The New York Times has made the original reviews they published when The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King came out back in the 1950's. Interesting stuff.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Online Arcade Museum: Man wouldn't it rock if this place were real, rather than virtual?

This used to be my favorite game. I wish they had an image of the killer smiley face.

I also remember, as a teenager, driving all the way to Magic Mountain just to hang out for hours in the arcade pumping quarters into this thing.

Because you care so much about my writing carrer: Well, my short story "Beautiful Hands" was a semi-finalist in this year's Writers of the Future contest, and came back with a very encouraging critique from K D Wentworth. Pretty encouraging.

Ethical Philosophy Test: Took this test, which I heard about from Tim. My results?

1. John Stuart Mill (100%)
2. Aquinas (97%)
3. Epicureans (85%)
4. St. Augustine (85%)
5. Jeremy Bentham (85%)
6. Kant (81%)
7. Ayn Rand (76%)
8. Aristotle (74%)
9. Prescriptivism (69%)
10. Spinoza (68%)

Monday, December 15, 2003

Another example of Corporate Greed: And at Christmas time, no less.

Friday, December 12, 2003

This never happens to David Blaine, because he's got REAL powers:David Copperfield's truck overturned the other night, forcing him to cancel another show. I can think of a couple snoozers of tricks that I hoped were ruined beyond repair.

But please, please, please tell me the singin' tie's okay.

Apartheid in CA?: Yeah, you knew it was going to happen.

A UCLA study has come out that says that California's not giving illegal aliens the right to vote, despite them being up to 40% of the population in some cities, is political apartheid, and, to quote one commentator, "We all saw how well apartheid worked." As if it meant we were trying to cut all Latinos off from the political process.

I'm sorry, but apartheid is a big trigger word for me. Horrible things happened in South Africa under apartheid, and for people who have already come to the US and gotten free medical care and other benefits to claim equal oppression--that would be like me crashing your party and complaining you didn't ask me what refreshments you should serve or what music to play, and then claiming that you intentionally left them out because you hated me.

What's up with that?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Conscious of a Democrat: Lots of people are talking about Zell Miller's new book, and I heard the man himself talking about it on some radio talk show or other yesterday. Lots of right wingers, both in and out of the Democratic party are clinging to this book as a wonderful, timely message on how to save the party. Lots of others think he's just being controversial to increase sales of what really is, largely, just his memoir.

Me? Can't say. Haven't read the book. But danged if he didn't sound reasonable yesterday on the radio, and reasonable isn't something I'm used to hearing from a politician anymore.

Friday, December 05, 2003

But This Would Never Happen Here: So in the Italian parliment, they've got this bill, right? And to keep it from passing, the opposition party submits like 3,000 amendments of random stuff to it to slow the bill down, and a couple get a adopted, including a bit that forbids children from acting in TV commericals.

Personally, I think it was a conspiracy by the Little People chapter of the Italian SAG.

A Cheeseburger With A Side of Jail Time The sentance for running over a McDonalds Employee for not getting your order right? 10 years.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Neither is this one: Fortunately Disney had this bit of news in the hopper to pass out on the heels of Roy's departure.

I'm guessing they held a big news conference, and had all the reporters thinking they would issue a statement on the recent resignations, and announced this instead.

Problems at Disney? No, this isn't the story you've been hearing about Roy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

How to Listen to Politicians: Phil Hendrie was doing a great bit yesterday on how to read the news. I won't repeat all that he said here, but here's a hint: If you're coming to the same conclusion that the person who wrote the article did, you're not reading it right.

In that same spirit, I'd like to present how to listen to politicians. It's basically an extention of an idea first put out by Dave Barry on how to listen to advertisers. Confused yet? Don't be. Here we go.

If Coke and Pepsi are spending tons of money trying to convince you that one will make you infinitely hipper than the other, or that the difference in taste is so enormous that people will look at you like someone who drinks toxic waste if you drink the wrong one, than they're probably both just fizzy sugar water.

If KFC is launching a new advertising campaign that insists that fried chicken is good healthy eating because it won't give you a heart attack nearly as fast as a Whopper, it's probably a whopper they're telling you.

The exact same thing works with politicians. You can take pretty much anything they're trying really, really hard to convince you of, and assume the opposite is true.

This doesn't mean you have to disbelieve everything they say. Not everything that comes out of every politician's mouth is a lie. What should set off the five alarm bells is when they're trying really, really hard to convince you of something.

Of course, not even this strategy works all the time, because something they're telling the truth, but having to work real hard at explaining something to you, because somebody else already "convinced" you of something else.

So you just have to watch whether they're explaining something to you, or trying to convince you of something.

Let me give you an example.

Think about a time where somebody was saying something bad or spreading some gossip about you. Remember how it felt like everybody believed it, right off the bat, even though it wasn't true? Because even though they had no evidence, it just felt right that you should have done that. They were able to "convince" everybody it was true. "That's so like him, isn't it?" or "I can totally see her doing that."

And you were left having to explain what really happened, but since your explanation was dull and boring, it didn't have the power to ever really fully overcome the "convincing" that took place in everybody's mind.

It's the same way with politics. Politicians (or even filmmakers, Michael Moore has mastered this, and I respect him for his talents) are able to convince you of something in such a way that even when the reality is explained to you, the justifications for the accusation or position are still wedged in your mind strongly enough to nearly overpower the facts.

Explanations can usually be taken at face value.

However, if the other politician responds by trying to "convince you" about why the first person is wrong, then he's probably wrong as well, and the reality probably sits somewhere in between the two arguments.

You can see why I have to chuckle whenever someone makes a derisive comment like, "He just tried to explain it away," as if "having some explaining to do," were tantamount to being guilty.

In reality, we should probably associate the phrase, "he made a passioned, emotional plea," with the idea that somebody doesn't have a leg to stand on. At least the first guy has an explanation. The second guy is just trying to make us want to believe him.

This is a fairly simplistic system, but I think it will work pretty well in your Lie Detector arsenal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Cat in the Hat: I am delighted to see that, for all the hoopla, The Cat in the Hat is apparently dreadful. On the other hand, Elf, which I have already pronounced sure to be the worst movie ever, due to the absolutely unfunny Will Ferrell, is pretty decent.

I link to these, not because I value the opinion of movie critics, but because in these cases, the criticisms seem to match public sentiment.

I generally don't trust movie critics for the same reasons I don't like literary authors--their existence depends on the idea that what regular people like doesn't actually affect what is good. If critics liked what you and me like, we wouldn't need them--we could just ask each other.

So in order to make us all feel like the critics are wiser than us, the critics have to go out of their way to slam movies that you and I would like, and to shower praise on movies any normal person would abhor, or, at best, sleep through. This makes them seem "wiser" and "more enlightened" than Mr. Causal Moviegoer.

Then the problem comes when we start buying into it. When we start believing that American Beauty is an important movie about me and you.

Sometimes it becomes obvious quickly how foolish and silly everybody was to get caught up in the hype. I think all of us are a little embarrassed now about how worked up we got over Titanic. The romantic main plot was pretty formula, and the ending was way more impressive in the special effects department than in the "Boy, I really care about what's happening" department.

But, wait a minute? Isn't this just the Doc doing what he accused the critics of doing? Criticizing a wildly popular movie, so that he can make himself seem smarter than everybody else?

Not at all. I'm asking you if you think Titanic was overrated. I'm guessing that, in retrospect, you do. I'm especially guessing you have if you've tried to sit through it recently.

So I'm just trying to say that we can sometimes get caught up the hype over a thing, and find way more in a film than was actually there.

This is why I never read the reviews before I see a movie, but talk to everybody I know who's already seen it. Because I don't want to be told if I'm supposed to like the movie--I just want to know if I'm going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Happy thanksgiving from those hard rockers at Limozeen.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Pop fiction: To understand the resentment that underscores the criticism of Stephen King's recent award from the National Book foundation, you have to have to understand that entire purpose of literary fiction is to create a mutual admiration society where authors who nobody wants to read can get together and compliment each other and remind each other how wonderful they are, so that they don't have to focus on the fact that the majority of what they write is completely inaccessible to most.

They want it to be inaccessible. They want it to be over people's heads. Because otherwise, what could they tell themselves when it wasn't salable?

So they lie to themselves and say that popular fiction is hack work that could be slapped together by anyone willing to sell out, popcorn and gumdrops, while they are creating crepes and filet minon.

Except that everybody would eat crepes and filet minon if it was the same price as popcorn and gumdrops, and although their books are often cheaper than a $30 Stephen King hardcover, people don't even think they're worth that much.

Instead, they're doing the literary equilvelent of oversalting everything, just so they can justify it when nobody cares. It's like when I was in junior high and wouldn't comb my hair. If I didn't try to be attractive and have people like me, at least I would know why they thought I was scuzzy, right? No fear of rejection if I'm already trying to make them reject me, right?

I'm not saying that every published work has to be popcorn. But the best of writing tries it's absolute best to remain accessible to the common man. (Think Guns, Germs and Steel or even Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, which both avoid deep technical explanations or equations, but are straightforward enough that even simpletons like me can understand, even while handling weighty subjects. Both were popular and had substantive content.)

It's the same feeling that drove them to create a separate bestseller list for children's books, so they could hide that J. K. Rowling was creating powerful stories people of all ages cared about, using some of the same archetypes and literary allusions they did, but in a far more accessible and palatable way than they could ever wish to.

The literary emperors have got no clothes, and they're really, really scared somebody's going to notice.

So if you're wondering why the supposedly classy and elite authors are saying such petty and bitter things, and aren't even listing the prize they gave King on their homepage, even when King was nothing but cordial, and even donated the prize money back to their organization--just remember, the entire reason the prize exists is so that the writers can tell themselves they're better than guys like King, even though they haven't touched nearly the number of readers he has.

Phobos Contest: Well, Phobos finally got around to posting thier finalists, and I ain't one of them.

Anybody interested in reading my submission, though, can shoot me an email, and I'll be more than happy to send them a copy. It's called An Ideal Husband, and weighs in at a wee 3,000 words.

Straining at Gnats: Regarding the spat over this BC cartoon, I only have this to say:

If Fred Bassett were scrutinized this closely every time Alex Graham wrote a clunker, he'd have been lynched by now.

(First heard about it from the fine folks at :Freespace:)

Friday, November 21, 2003

Well, now I've seen everything.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Crystal City This was the novel I bragged about getting to finish due to my disappearance from the internet.

This is actually the sixth book of Orson Scott Card's "Tales of Alvin Maker" series. Card's goal, when he set out, was to create a uniquely American fantasy that drew on the magic and folklore of this nation for its fantastic elements. It also doubles as an alternate history novel, taking place in an 1800's America where France, England and Spain all still have claim on various parts of the continent. (As an example, in this version, George Washington was a British General who was beheaded for refusing to fight the Americans.)

To review the series for you, the first book, Seventh Son, Alvin is born, seventh son of a seventh son, which according to traditional folklore is supposed to make him a healer. However, since all of Alvin's older siblings are still alive, it's even more powerful for him--he ends up a "Maker," with powers over all types of elements.

In the second book, Alvin is kidnapped by Indians, and he finds himself the pupil of Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwa-Tawa of the Shawnee. But ultimately he ends up playing a huge role in the final showdown between the Reds, William Henry Harrison, and, believe it or not, Napoleon.

In the third book, by far my favorite of the six, Alvin prentices to a blacksmith, and learns more about who he is as he tries to help the son of an escaped slave avoid a return to the south.

The fourth book, which is my least favorite of the series, also introduces my favorite character, Verily Cooper, a lawyer with a knack for putting things together. There's also quite a bit of stuff with Napoleon and Honore de Balzac.

Heartfire is my wife's favorite. The main plot deals with witchcraft trials in New England, but it also contains some of the best stuff on slavery I've read in contemporary writing. And, since my wife likes it, you can bet it has its share of romance.

Which leads to the latest book, named after the Crystal City Alvin's known he was going to have to build since Red Prophet. By far the densest and most structurally straightforward of all the books, this book starts in New Orleans (called Nueva Barcelona since it fell back under Spanish rule), and you can pretty much guess where it ends up. (Yup. In a volcano.)

The whole series is worth reading, and as you can see, it tackles the major themes of American history (Frontier life, slavery, puritanism, Indian issues, etc.) and does so in a way that's both interesting and powerful. Check it out.

On Gay "Marriage": First of all, I've always considered marriage more of a religious issue than a legal one, and have considered legislation regarding marriage as being primarily affected by freedom of religion. Consequently, I am loathe to dictate what types of unions can and can't be approved by the government.

However, two points. Gay couples shouldn't pretend they're being discriminated against until everyone calls their union a marriage. Real discrimination is what happens to poligamists, or what used to happen to interracial couples in some states. These people are thrown in jail and locked up. Gay couples are, at least, left alone.

Second, trying to change the definition of marriage is both silly and superfluous. There's a good dialogue on it here, but there's a simpler way to think about it.

Let's say all of this goes down just like homosexuals think they want it to. "Marriage" now includes any union. To distinguish between them, people start calling them "heterosexual marriage" and "homosexual marriage." Everybody realizes these terms are still exclusionary, so finally somebody steps in and gets it decided that the term "heterosexual marriage" must include homosexual marriage. So in order to distinguish between the two, the media starts calling them "heterosexual heterosexual marriage" and "homosexual heterosexual marriage."

Do you see how silly it starts getting? Do you start to understand now why we're fighting to get the definition of marriage left as it is? It's not out of spite, or hate, or some type of conspiracy to control what happens in bedrooms. The fact is they're just different. Why try to make them the same?

Should my poligamist ancestors have tried to get the definition of monogamy changed to include being married to more than one wife? Or should they have strived to help people understand and accept polygamy? Would they have been better off using linguistic tricks to slide under the radar of existing law, or would they have been better off if everybody accepted them for who they actually were and what they were actually doing, and accepted them on those terms?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Well, I haven't just been avoiding blogging, but I've been avoiding the whole freaking Internet for the past few days. How's that gone for me? Well, I've helped my wife around the house more, been going to the gym every day, finished a book (reading, not writing), and got more sleep than I have in months.

I am, however, still finding ways to procrastinate my Nanowrimo novel, and I'm watching more TV than I have in months as well.


Sunday, November 09, 2003

Don't even bother clicking on it, unless you were tuned in to NBC on Friday nights in the mid-eighties, but thanks to Megachirops over at the Hatrack Forum, I finally got the name of a show I've been trying to figure out since I discovered the internet.

The answer?


Obscure Movie Review of the Day: The Hulk

Okay, so it's not so obscure.

I don't know quite what went wrong with this film. I really, really want to believe that the problem was that I didn't see it as it was meant to be seen--on a screen 500 miles high, in a theatre full of eight thousand people. I saw it on my little 19 inch TV, and I don't even remember whether I had my glasses on. Yeah. That must be it. Otherwise it would have rocked.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I loved all the ideas of this movie (Okay, all the ideas except the monster poodle. That was a bit of a stretch). I liked the editing, I liked they way they incorporated comic book frames into the scene composition, and I liked how they did the Hulk effects. But somehow, somewhere, something went wrong, and I found myself completely emotionally disconnected at every phase of the movie.

A big part of the problem may have been Nick Nolte, who here reprises his roll as a transient from "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," a movie which I never saw, but did read the MAD Magazine parody of, so I guess I could more accurately say he seems to reprise his roll from the MAD Magazine parody of "Down and out in Beverly Hills." Oh, heck yeah, I believe that thirty years ago he was the world's greatest scientist.

Part of the problem may have been the music. They really try to downplay the music here, maybe trying to get an M. Night sort of feel to the drama, but not quite hitting it. At some points the sound absolutely, positively works. For example, at one part, they make the interesting sound choice of, while a tank is exploding, playing down the sound of the explosion, while we instead hear the sound of Hulk brushing the dust off his hands. Stuff like that should be powerful, really rock. But while I was thinking, "wow, that was a neat sound choice," I wasn't actually feeling anything because of it.

Is this a sign I was overanalyzing the film? Or, more possibly, is it a sign that the movie was maybe overdirected, self-conscious to the point that the style gets in the way of enjoying the movie. Like an author who's so caught up in the "style" of his story that the style is all you notice, and the characters and plot all get swallowed up, a forest you can't see because of the words that, like the proverbial trees, just get in the way.

I hate to say that--especially about Ang Lee, who I think is as much of a genius as anybody who's in Hollywood can claim to be.

I just wish I could have seen it in a theatre. Because I really, really want to like this movie, even after having seen it.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The Crystal City: Orson Scott Card's new Alvin Maker book is coming out this week. Hear the author talk about it here. You can even read the first third of the book online here.

And the signing schedule is here. I'm going to the one in Pasadena on the 11th, if anybody wants to come and hang out.

Larry King interviews David Blaine: The rough transcript is here.

Here's the exchange I enjoyed, and emphasizes what I was talking about regarding Baine blurring the line between magic and reality:

KING: Out of all of the things in history, what's one feat impressed you the most?

BLAINE: I mean, I liked when Orson Wells did the "War of the Worlds."

KING: When he fooled us all.

BLAINE: The radio. And everybody thought aliens were coming down.

KING: Fooled my parents.

BLAINE: Yes, thought I thought was amazing.

KING: My mother and father went running into the street.

BLAINE: I also liked Castro came into power and seemed like a white dove flew out of no where and landed on his shoulder and he just continued his acceptance speech, but you could see a guy throwing the doves from his jacket. That's how I think doves should be used.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Dogs attacking their masters: I am fully in favor of this. I just can't decide whether it's an animal rights issue (does the dog have a right to choose?) or a gun control issue (A well-armed and well-regulated puppy militia being neccesary to the preservation of a free and secure animal kingdom, the right of pets to keep and bear arms should not . . .)

Anyone foolish enough to own a pet deserves what they get.

Except Roy, of course. Get well soon, Roy.

The Reagan Movie: I can only tell you one thing about why this movie isn't airing--it probably stinks to high heaven. I mean really, really reeks. Pungent odors and everything. A couple of producers and a writer thought they could string together a bunch of the ancedotes they liked to pass around at parties that made the President look bad without anybody having to actually understand anything about how the world worked, and they ended up making a stinker of a film.

With the ratings potential being as great as they were, with all the controversy surrounding the film already, there's no way CBS pulled out of this out of their own self-interest. Remember, we're talking about television here. They'll try to make Ted Danson sitcoms seem controversial to try and drum up ratings. To have actual, real live, honest-to-goodness controversy is like manna from heaven.

If the show had been at all passable as entertainment, they'd have put it on during a sweeps month and ridden the right wing radio's complaint coaster to ratings heaven. Then they'd have re-aired a "special, uncut" version two weeks later.

Controversy like this usually begin fabricated--when "The Last Temptation of Christ" came out, producers purpousely leaked script segments to religious groups to try to whip up a storm of controversy, and the religious right, like the good little puppets they often allow themselves to be, complied--to drum up free publicity on the news for films or shows with little promotional budget.

"Accidental" leaks of this type are like "accidental broadcasts" of weapons tests. You want the info out there, but you don't want anybody to know you want it out there.

But for them to pull the plug on a show with this much "Buzz"--I'm guessing the film was such a stink bomb that if they found it in Iraq, everybody would have called Bush a hero for stopping Saddam from unleashing it.

The war in Iraq: Were there weapons or weren't there? Was Saddam a threat or wasn't he? Is George leaving our troops to die, so he can get rich off oil deals?

Okay, here's the sitch: Saddam was parading around the middle east like the bad boy on the block. He'd used gas, and he gave the run around to inspectors, and all of the surrounding nations were scared to death of him, because they knew he'd used weapons before, and they were sure . . . sure . . . he had them now.

Even when they were arguing to give the inspectors more time, the opposing nations in the UN weren't arguing he didn't have the weapons. They were just saying they thought the diplomacy deserved a chance.

Everybody was sure he had the weapons. Saddam was acting like he had the weapons.

So here's the metaphor to help everybody see this one clearly. Imagine it's Columbine High School, and the administration is scared to death and wants to get all the weapons off the campus. And there's this kid, see, who may or may not have been buddies with the guys who shot everybody up last time--nobody's really sure--but now he's parading around as if he's got something to hide, reluctant to let anybody search his bags or his locker, and the kid's got a history. The administration doesn't really want to do anything, lest they get sued, security of the students notwithstanding.

So finally some kids, worried about everybody's safety, wrestle his bag away, bustopen his locker, and as he runs off, inside both the bag and the locker they find maybe a bong and some schoolbooks.

The analogy is obvious, but in case you can't tell the players without a program--Columbine is Sept. 11, the kid is Saddam, the friends are Al-Qaida. The administration is the UN, and the kids who were worried about everybody's safety were the "coalition forces."

I like this analogy a lot. It shows everything in a pretty accurate perspective. It shows the UN as irresponsible (would you stand for it if your kids school acted like this?), George Bush as courageous for standing up to them, and leaves open the only two real possibilities for what was going on with Saddam. Just like the kid in this story, he either had the weapons or he didn't.

In the case of the first option, the move was justified, because the weapons really were there all along, and if there's any criticism, it's for letting those weapons get away.

In the case of the second option, where there were no weapons--think about it. The kid was walking around posturing like he was dangerous while the memory of the real danger was still fresh in everybody's minds. Did he really expect not to get called on it? Would you really accuse the other kids of having "bad information" when they weren't acting on rumors and whispers, but on what everybody pretty much considered to be pretty common knowledge, information the guy himself was doing everything to keep perpetuating?

Even if it's true that Saddam didn't have one drop of one chemical weapon, the idea that he had them was a large part of what made Iraq the formidable force it was in the Middle East. Even if it turns out that front was a facade, it was a facade that Saddam himself was carefully constructing. Not something George W. Bush propped up so he could knock it down.

I mean come on. Use your head. If the administration had really been fabricating the mountains and mountains of evidence in order to blatantly deceive the American people, all the while knowing that once he got in, Saddam wouldn't even have so much as a bottle of cough syrup, wouldn't George W. also have come up with a few liters of Botox to plant behind a barrel somewhere, so he wouldn't end up with egg on his face?

Or, to put it in terms that Michael Moore can understand, wouldn't a fictitious President fighting a fictitious war produce a fictitious weapon of mass destruction or two?

Fact is, Saddam, at the very least, was bluffing. And bluffing in a very dangerous game. Calling him on it doesn't make Bush a liar, or an idiot, or a manipulator. It just makes Saddam a bad card player.

Abortion: There's a perfectly good, perfectly reasonable, non-controversial law on the books of every state right now that absolutely no one in America is opposed to, has never been thought unconstitutional, and which guarantees every woman in this fine nation the right to have nothing in her womb that she wants to prevent being there.

These laws are the rape laws.

I will argue in favor of the rape laws until my dying day, because I respect women and feel they have the right to choose what does and does not happen in their bodies. The rape laws say that no woman has to have anything in her womb that she did not consent to end up there.

In fact, I would even argue that, rather than facilitating more abortions, we facilitate tougher penalties, up to and including the death penalty, for rapists. Especially serial rapists.

One of the interesting things about this is that one of the supposed hypocrisies of the Right--that we oppose abortion as murder, while endorsing the death penalty--gets stood on its head.

Whenever I bring up this argument and logical flow, liberals are left arguing that its better to kill unborn children than kill people who are guilty of terrible crimes against women. The real hypocrisy becomes crystal clear.

The entire "right to choose" argument seems to have been formulated by second graders with no real working knowledge of how sex works. They act as if pregnancy can be caught, like cooties, and abortion is a convenient cootie-catcher to wipe away the inconvenience.

As absolutely un-PC and offensive as this statement is going to be to some people, I'm going to say it anyway: A woman chooses to put herself at risk of pregnancy the moment she consents to intercourse. She chooses.

So whatever other argument you may have about why abortion may be fine and natural and necessary, the argument that without it, women would be losing control over their own bodies doesn't wash. If you really want to put women back in control, you can argue for tougher rape laws.

Unions and Strikes: I'm actually not as vehemently anti-union as some might think I would be. I actually consider employees just like I would any other good or service, as anybody else should. You, as an employee, are pretty much just like the guys who make Pepsi. The guys who make Pepsi want to get as much money as possible in exchange for their product. They've got pretty much two choices for how to make more money. They can raise their prices, or they can sell more Pepsi. The problem is, people are then free to head on over and buy Pepsi.

It's the same way with you. You can either work more hours or ask for more money. The problem is, your boss is then free to find somebody else who can do the same job you're doing for the same price, since you're all just the employee equivalent of fizzy sugar water.

A union is the equivalent of an oligopoly. Coke and Pepsi get together and decide that ain't nobody going to get any more soda unless they're willing to pay a buck a can. Would anybody go for it? Should anybody go for it? Of course not. Coke remains coke, and still isn't worth a buck a can.

Now, say that since nobody wanted to pay a buck a can, Coke and Pepsi suddenly decided that, in order to teach everybody a lesson, they were going to stop making soda. No more, they say, until everybody realizes how much they miss us. Only when everybody changes their mind and decide to pay a buck a can for soda will they start making product again.

How wise does this seem? Would you, as a stockholder, put a lot of faith in the CEO if they acted like this?

So why does everybody think the Union leaders are so all-fired noble and brilliant for attempting pretty much the same strategy?

There's only one way to get more money for Pepsi, and that's to make Pepsi worth more money. If it, say, also cured cancer and regrew hair, then maybe people might ante up the extra money.

In other words, the grocer's union workers should find some way to increase the value of the work they're doing. Time it was that grocery store checking was a semi-professional job. You had to have flawless, lightening fast ten-key speed to punch up the prices of all of those items quickly and accurately, all while engaging in mindless banter with the customer.

Now, you pretty much just have to scan and scowl.

Do the grocery store clerks really think they're so irreplaceable that by standing in the parking lots they're leaving employers cowering in fear, wondering how the stores will function?

I'm sorry, but my two-year-old pretty much got it right her first try on the Barbie "Shop With Me" Cash Register.

I do feel there are unions and professional organizations that are able to exercise some leverage by unionizing, and I'm not going to deny them the right to do it.

But isn't it a little hypocritical to pick on monopolies and oligopolies as being unfair when a company is doing it, but then calling it unfair when individual people are doing it?

Actually, the person who gets screwed the most by Unions is the guy who does his job incredibly well, and competently. He ends up having to take up the slack of the less competent guy working beside him, who is making the exact same amount as him, even though he's nowhere near as good a worker.

But man, the unions sure are nice for the incompetent guy, aren't they?

Alright, today's going to come at you fast and furious. I'm going to tell you what you should think of some of the top issues in the news today. Prepare to be either enlightened or offended, depending on how open minded you are.

(Yes. This means I'm procrastinating working on my Nanowrimo novel.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I'm kinda, sorta trying to do the Nanowrimo thing. I was pretty pleased with what I was writing last year, but I didn't finish, and when my computer pooted out in January, it took the half-finished manuscript with it.

Oh, who am I kidding. Half a quarter finished.

If that.

Track this year's progress here!

Or for similarly-paced action, check out the Duct Tape Cam.

Oh, and Tim, I had the exact same feeling about when they stopped airing Misfits of Science. Courtney Cox was no Linda Carter, but Lyle Waggoner couldn't shoot lightning bolts out of his hands.

From the "Why go public?" file: So PETA's latest publicity stunt is to buy a bunch of shares of Outback Steak House so they can go raise a stink at the shareholder's meetings.

For those unfamiliar with the company, OSI has been pretty strong, showing good growth this last year, and is trading higher than it ever has. The day's trading didn't show much reaction to the news, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

PETA's already made it's hit list of future companies to target.

What exactly is PETA's purpouse, anyway? A quick news search on them at Yahoo! News shows me they're trying to change a town's name, exploiting a dying magician by getting press time in his news coverage to criticize the magician's exploitation of tigers, and sending people gift certificates for brain surgery.

It seemed to me just a bunch of publicity stunts, that weren't really helping anybody or anything. However, on further examination, I discovered their real motivation; apparently, PETA gets the chicks.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Speaking of Sci-Fi channel, am I alone in finding it an absolute joke of a network? Maybe it's because I work all day, and miss all of thier "real" programming, but man, alive, it seems like all they air is John Edwards and grade D garbage with bottom-tier casts.

I wonder if this is just the kind of drivel that USA networks thinks Sci-Fi is, and consequently they don't even bother trying for quality, or if this is all the network's able to afford to air.

It certainly isn't helping the public's perception of the genre.

I mean, come on! John Edwards? John Edwards?

Even Chris Angel. I'm diggin' that he's on TV, but on Sci-Fi?

Magic on TV This year's Halloween magic show entries seem pretty good--Chris Angel, a dark, mystical magician, who's kind of a hybrid of David Copperfield and H. P. Lovecraft, has a special on the Sci-Fi Channel. Comedy Central, meanwhile, will be airing an episode of "Comedy Central Presents" that features The Amazing Jonathan.

I'll post reviews after I catch them, so you can know whether to watch them as they are rerun into eternity . . .

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Oh, thank goodness. Everything's going to be okay after Brad and Jen hit the Mid-East.

In the meantime, maybe Ted Danson and Barbara Streisand can negotiate with the wildfires.

In regards to the boy who got suspended for drawing the marine killing the terrorist, people are missing the real issue here. The fact is, the boy failed to get backing from the stick figure UN before taking action against the stick figure terrorist. The stick figure marine simply cannot act unilaterally, no matter how many stick figure deaths the stick figure terrorist may have been responsible for. has posted this year's Halloween cartoon. It's chock-full of inside jokes for longtime fans and silly easter eggs.

My favorite thing about these halloween cartoons is that they make absolutely no attempts to be timely or trendy in thier selection of costumes, thereby preserving the timelessness of the cartoons. M. Bison? Magnum, PI? The best is still Homestar's costume from a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Come on down!Rod Roddy has passed away from Breast Cancer. Apparently it affects about 1,500 men a year. Possibly more, but since so few men think to look for it, many who die of other causes had it, but it goes undiagnosed.

My current disdain for game shows is a fairly recent development. As a kid I loved the Showcase Showdowns, and always felt let down if they failed to come up with a cutesy, semi-logical "theme" for the showcase, somehow creating unity between what usually amounted to a vacation, a vehicle, an appliance, a piece of furniture, and a box of a cleaning product. I think writing copy for that show demanded the same level of creativity as writing for the Weekly World News.

So this morning Bill Handel decides to go off on a bunch of callers who were calling in to report a fairly popular rumor that's been going around. The gist of it is something like this: The federal government, at the request of a Republican Congressman, had prepped some giant fire dropping airplanes that were sitting on the runway waiting to go out, but weren't in the air, because Grey Davis refused to formally request them.

Handel went off on these callers, and told them to use their heads. Did they really think any public official would intentionally let something like that go undone? Just because he was a (heaven forbid!) Democrat?

Sure enough, after some research, it was discovered Davis had requested the planes, but due to federal law, the planes couldn't be called into service until all private sector equipment was already in use.

Handel's point is valid--it's ridiculous to assume that everyone from the other party is inherently evil, and deliberately trying to cause havoc and spread suffering.

But wait a minute . . . isn't that exactly what President Bush is accused of doing? Deliberately trying to cause havoc and spread suffering, for no real purpose? Of deliberately shorting supplies to our troops, deliberately murdering innocent Iraqis, deliberately poisoning our air, deliberately alienating the world? Aren't the Dems searching like mad for proof that Sept. 11th was deliberately allowed to happen?

Let's show that coin on both sides, Bill! It ain't just Republicans that do it.

They've posted sketches of the suspect in the Old Fire arson.

I didn't know Richard Kiel was a firebug!

This map is the best one I've seen for pictures of my neighborhood, and how the fire afffected it.

The intersection from which I said I couldn't see the campus is the one right above the U in University. The blank space to the right of Cal State is the hill they burned as a backfire.

(This map was posted at Freespace, whose coverage of the fire is to be commended. I am to be commended for posting the incident report about the grey van a full 24 hours before the TV news was reporting it. No, I am not above patting myself on the back.)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Well, around the world and home again.

To answer a couple of questions: Although we were already headed out, by the time we were out the door, the ambulance was circling our apartments telling everybody to leave.

I'm shooting out a pic to a lot of you to show you how close I was to the fire. I won't be posting it on the net, but if you'd like it, let me know and an I'll shoot you a copy. (It's basically the old photo altered with arrows.)

We're back home now, and doing fine. The other side of the hill behind Cal State is still burning, so we may have to go again.

Thanks for all the phone calls and emails.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

According to the CHP dispach logs 9:59 am listing, here's the report associated with the fire:

9:59AM - 1039 I4

The 18 is the Highway designation for Waterman Ave, the road the fire started on.

Alright, here's a little more info. I live very near Cal State in the area that was evacuated earlier today. We had decided we were heading out as soon as we heard Cal State was being evacuated, but by the time I got back from Hemet, where I was working, to pick her up, the fire was right behind Cal State.

By the time we got our stuff and our two little girls in the car and drove out, we couldn't even see Cal State from the corner of Univeristy and Kendall, which is the next stoplight from the entrance to the university.

After I got my wife and girls down to Rialto, my Dad and I went up to see how things looked, and so I could be on hand to help if any members of my church (or anybody else) needed help evacuating. By that point the hill behind my apartments had completely burned, but the apartments were okay. I'm taking that to mean we're out of trouble, since there's nothing more to burn to bring the fire back to us.

In the meantime, the fire is spreading northwest towards Glen Helen/the area where the Little Leauge regional headquarters is located, and southeast into north Highland. My house is pretty close to all the burned up homes they're showing on the news around 40th st.

When I left for Hemet this morning, I could see almost the entire fire off the side of the mountain from the thirty. The radio said, at that point, it was 20 acres.

When I came back I couldn't even see the sun for the thick layer of dark black smoke that covered everything. It was literally like something out of an apocalyptic movie. As of the last report at incident control, the fires at 6,000 acres. (But if that's as gross an underestimation as the current "50+ homes" report is, we're in trouble).

There are few sites I've seen I will never forget. One is the way the smoke was gushing into the air a block away from me, as I tried to get my wife and kids as far from there as I could.

Well, this fire has forced Marci and I to get the girls out of dodge. We are okay, and at my folks house in Rialto. I'll keep you updated.

Amazon's new feature: I really enjoy's new search feature. Amazon now gives you the ability to search within the contents of individual books rather than just the titles and subjects.

For example, by typing in the science fiction term, "ansible," I was able to generate enough links that I was highly tempted to write a paper following the origin of the term, just because so many obvious resources were there.

It does seem to be slowing down their server, and giving more, "this page cannot be displayed" errors, but I'm sure they'll take care of it quickly.

Knock yourselves out.

Just to give everybody a sense of closure: Since I posted when he was in, I should probably post now that he's out. Yeah, David Blaine stepped out of the box, finally. There was no "illusion," no surprise, "poof, I'm gone, now I'm behind this tree!" dramatic ending. He just stepped out.

This is what I enjoy about Blaine. Rather than, say, walking through the great wall of China, Blaine is doing stuff that almost seems remotely plausible. People could almost buy that he was just standing in a block of ice for three days. People are buying now that this is some kind of starvation stunt. By taking the "razzle dazzle" out of magic, he's reintroducing some of the plausibility and wonder and discussion that makes magic interesting.

When David Copperfield shoves a girl in an alien space box and makes her vanish, the audience shrugs and says, "Gee, there must be something about that alien space box I didn't understand." When Blaine acts, it's with ordinary props, ordinary situations that people feel they understand and are familiar with. Sort of like "psychics" who bend spoons and fix broken watches. We understand spoons and broken watches, and so its easier to believe.

And, because we understand them, it's more fun to speculate on how it's done. Alien Space boxes force us to concede that there are mirrors or trapdoors or something. Props we understand force us to get creative with solutions, and thinking of creative solutions is part of the fun of watching magic.

The last thing he's doing, and doing well, is creating images, lasting images, for the public consciousness. The image of the man buried alive, or frozen in ice, or standing atop the pole, or trapped in a box--these are going to stick with us, whether we enjoy Blaine or not. That's the point that guys like Roeper miss when they call him "boring." He's not about dancing and scantily clad women. He's giving you an image, one that's going to make you remember him. (Not that Roeper doesn't generally manage to miss the point.)

He's being billed as the Anti-Houdini, and in a lot of ways that's true. Houdini represented that inherently American desire to break out and be free. Blaine is going against that and staying in the box. It jars at all of our psyches, because on some level we want him out of there, we feel it's wrong for him to be in there. That conflict creates an impression on our mind. Whatever feeling that is--or whether he's managed to create that feeling at all--tells you how well his art has affected you.

The eleven year old boy quoted in the article sums up the attitude of a lot of us, whether we like it or not. He felt Blaine was, "stupid," but was still going to keep the bin-bag Blaine tossed to the crowd as "a souvenir."

From the "This Sounds Like the Setup For a Joke" file: My brother summed this up best, when he asked, "Is this for real?" Wow. Just . . . wow. (Thanks to Freespace for pointing this out. )

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: Making Contact aka Joey

In this one, a boy whose father whose father has recently died gains the power to communicate with his father, as well as move stuff with his mind. Ultimately he must decide who to trust--the voice of his father, or the voice of the talking ventriloquest dummy that's trying to convince him it's all a lie.

This early outing of Roland Emmerich (who later went on to direct Independence Day and Godzilla) can be viewed on two levels. The first, and obvious, one is this: A young Emmerich was trying desperately to be like all of his favorite big Hollywood studio directors. The homages are blantant and heavy handed--not only do half the scenes feel directly lifted from Speilberg and Lucas films, but half the stuff in the house has a picture of a Speilberg or Lucas character on it.

There are times where he manages to pull the "homage" off--the early scene where toys are getting buggy while the door starts to glow (sound close-encounters-esque?) works really well--the glowing red plastic phone that's ultimately behind that door does not. In the scenes where boys are in the tunnels underneath the old house (Goonies, anyone?) and have to face their fears, it's pretty cool when Darth Vader comes after one of them (sound like the cave scene in Empire?) but pretty lame when a giant cheeseburger comes after one of them (and it was lame in Young Sherlock Holmes, too).

But on another level--man, it was cool to be a kid. There were times when I was looking at these boys running around with their too-long mop-tops and v-neck t-shirts and their Return of the Jedi bedsheets that I felt like I was watching one of the "movies" my brothers and I used to make in the backyard with my Dad's old video camera.

In a lot of ways, I think that's what Emmerich was here--a kid playing around with a camera. And it looks like he and the real kids had a good time making it. That doesn't neccesarily mean everyone will have a good time watching it, but I did.

Sort of.

Blogging is interresting. It's essentially like standing on a soapbox in Hyde Park in London, shouting at the masses, wondering if anybody's listening to you, if the look on that fellow's face as he stares at you is because you're insightful, or because you have something on your nose. It's pretty much a solitary activity, like journal writing, but as people begin to follow each other's links, it ends up becoming oddly communal. Sort of like how all the Hyde Park guys would get to know each other, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Speaking of Screwtape The absolute best audiobook I've ever heard was John Cleese's reading of The Screwtape Letters. Cleese has the perfect voice and attitude for satire, and at times makes Lewis's work laugh out loud funny.

The absolute worst audiobooks I've heard are the Roddy McDowall readings of L. Ron Hubbard's works. McDowall manages to drain absolutely every speck of life out of everything he reads. And considering how loquacious Mr. Hubbard can get--I must admit to never even having managed to finish an abridgment.

Make the drums stop! Frustrated that their site hadn't been updated since the 15th, I gave Phobos Books a call. Found out they're more than a month behind, and haven't even selected the finalists yet, let alone send them to the jury for judging. But I was assured by the very nice woman I talked to the whole thing would be done, "Before the holidays."

By popular demand: Tim Sandefur requests that I weigh in on an article from the Claremont Institute that implies that people who are using Christianity as a justification for their pacifism are merely promoting a "progressive' Christian point of view' that is out of touch with "the traditional American view of Christian theology," citing the religious views of the original founding fathers as an example of what he feels to be proper Christian thinking.

Tim knows my feelings on this issue--I'm the "Mormon reader" who wrote in in response to his last rant on this (My letter is immediately above his comments).

I really hate to see religious groups abused by the right wing in exactly the same way minorities abused by the left wing. Their votes are taken for granted the vast majority of the time, and they are called upon for support at such a time as their beliefs are valuable to the cause--at such times, the more radical and devout they are, the better. However, when their views don't jibe with what the right-wingers want--well, then we need to be a little more tolerant, don't we? Bring our thinking into more modern times? Stop being such hard-liners.

Or, the opposite, as in the article linked to. Ask them what happened to their devotion. Accuse them of following their own ideas rather than "true Christianity."

Christians get played all three ways, depending on the issue.

So basically he's doing exactly the same thing he's accusing the publishers of sojourners of doing--telling people how to be Christians.

The only real "umbrella" he even implies for what constitutes a Christian is "people who believe as the founding fathers believed."

Well, I can buy that. I just hope he accepts my definition of what kind of Christians the founding fathers were, which is, "Christians whose beliefs about Christianity differed enough that they knew to just leave it alone and write a constitution."

It reminds me, actually, of my years at BYU. Ironically, it when I was most surrounded by Mormons that I most often found myself being questioned for my religous beliefs. Whereas "I don't do that. I'm Mormon," had always been good enough answer for my friends growing up, at BYU it drew responses like, "Well, the Prophet hasn't actually made a statement on that," or, "What the guy who said that was really trying to say was . . ." I was stunned to realize how much less understanding the people whose beliefs are closest to yours can be!

As for what kind of Christian this extreme politicizing makes you into--that's covered in one of the first couple chapters of The Screwtape Letters.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm a geek, but this looks great. I missed the end of both this cartoon, and Calvin and Hobbes, since I was busy in Brazil. My dear mother was kind enough to send me the last strips from both cartoons, so I could feel like a part of things.

I remember feeling really grateful, like she had helped me be a part of something important.

Man. I really am a geek.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I'm going to be speaking tonight at the church's Young Adult Fireside at 7pm at the Northpark building. Anybody who wants to can come, if you're going to be in the neighborhood.

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: Captain America

Not the 1970's motorcycle-riding Captain America, this one was cranked out of 21st Century Films shortly after the first Batman movie made a bazillion dollars.

Bad doesn't even begin to describe it. The movie is two-thirds over before we see the the star-spangled one display the least degree of competence, and absolutely every single plot point depends on someone being absolutely bone-headed about something.

And my having sat through it clear to the end doesn't make me much less bone-headed.

Besides the laughable boomerang shield effects, the dialogue has got to be the worst part of the movie--my favorite line, said by Cap, to himself, as he wanders through the forests of Canada: "I have no idea where I am, but home's got to be south of here."

I think everybody involved in this was just as lost.

Friday, October 17, 2003

My brother's getting married tommorow at the new Temple that the church has built in Redlands. Another brother and I were both maried in Los Angeles, and just a couple months ago, another brother was married in San Diego.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. How many brothers does that make?

Don't even get me started. My wife had as many brothers as there are people in my whole family.

So how did I end up with nothing but girls?

Caterpillar Attacks Mouse: You've probably seen this lawsuit. However, according to the precedents set in the Cuisinart vs. Gremlins decision back in the mid-eighties, you can use pretty much anything you want as a weapon in the movies and nobody's going to be dumb enough to think it's the weapon that's evil.

Unless, of course, it's a gun.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

In honor of Tim's 27th birthday (since I think he's one of only two people who read this page) I wanted to post a link to the 27 list. And in trying to find it (no, I'm not a big enough dork to have it bookmarked), I discovered this. Couldn't they just use the money they're paying for web hosting?

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm also anxiously awaiting the results of this year's Phobos writing contest. They're supposed to come out today, and I've got a decent piece in it. There's a barely audible drumroll happening in my head today . . . .

Here's a long interview Penn did with IGN film force. The interview is cool, but so's the site, if you dig the movie rumor stuff. If you don't dig Penn, or movie rumors, the go googlism yourself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Oh, and be sure to check out Penn Jillette's article on misdirection for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Well, now I won't see it. Will Ferrill has been attached to the big screen version of Bewitched. I think the reason this guy seems to pop up in every comedy movie to come out of Hollywood is because he's very, very aware of how abysmally unfunny he is, and is afraid casting directors might realize it before he stockpiles enough cash to survive the Hollywood Squares years. He's even going to spoil my five-year-old self's favorite book by playing The Man in the Yellow Hat.

I hope he dies soon enough that I get the chance to dance on his grave.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I must point out the following exhange I had with Papa Moose, though, the OSC fan who won the trivia contest at Endercon, and consequently became a character in Card's new book:


It was pretty fun. I had a good time, and I didn't even vote for an actor or journalist or porn star. Or slime ball.

Papa Moose:

Skipped that question, huh?

I had some points in this thread over at that I didn't want to try to recreate here, because a lot of them need to be read in context, but I still thought were worth a gander.

Don't worry, I won't point you to everything I write at Hatrack. But these are pretty much my feelings on these issues.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Come on and watch 'em run . . . .

It's amazing how many votes a margin-of-error candidate can get.

On my ballot, the little line I drew for Tom McClintock was exactly opposite the little line I drew on the other side of the paper to vote yes on the recall. If my marker would have bled, I still would have been okay.

. . . ballots really aren't that hard to use . . .

I have the coolest friends: Everyone I've talked to so far today voted for Tom McClintock. You all just rock.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I guess I have to say something about the Rush situation.

The most damaging thing, in my mind, is the image of him standing in Denny's parking lots at night like a hoodlum. Despite the constant accusations of conservative hypocracy by the liberals (that we'll pick on Clinton when he's naughty, but stand up for our own people) the fact is that scandal does destroy conservative politicians, and it can effect conservative commentators as well.

The comments about McNabb were less pithy than everybody wants to make them. I remember pretty much the opposite being said about Larry Bird on more than one occasion and no resignations were tendered and no heads were served up on platters, and, likely as not, the comments about Bird were probably true. The McNabb comments probably are, too.

It was probably wise of Rush to give up the job, though. Can you imagine the uproar if he actually had said anything with teeth?

In case you weren't aware, David Blaine has been hanging out in a box in England. It's created quite the media frenzy, as he's had an assasination scare, a nut try to cut his water tube, and mocking him declared to be the mark of a true Brit.

I guess the Brits need something to keep them entertained, since they can't hold royal recall elections.

Although I would like to vote for Rowan Atkinson for prime minister.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Well, I've joined the ranks of a group I never wanted to be a part of. I'm a cell-phone toter now. As part of my new job, I now am required to carry a cell phone with me at pretty much all times.

I'm not very good at it. In fact, I'm pretty lousy at it. For instance, yesterday another area manager called me while I was in the grocery store. I learned there is a knack to shopping and talking on the phone at the same time. Otherwise, you just look like you're wandering up and down the aisles chatting away. I don't think you're supposed to go to the grocery store to talk to your friends on the phone. I only think you're supposed to do that at the mall.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

If Blogs are good enough for Tim Sandefur and Dave Barry, then they're good enough for me. I guess I better get one of my own.