Friday, December 19, 2008

102nd Skeptics' Circle

I haven't exactly been astute at keeping up with it, but the Skeptics' Circle is still going strong, as shown in their 102nd meeting.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Magna Faire

So, I’ve had a couple of days to recover from Magna Faire, and I think I’m ready to expound a bit.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. COLD!

Rebecca and Kaitlyn came down with me for this event, their first. I suppose I could add to the “bad” list that the directions to the site were not particularly helpful. I really should ignore the directions and make this trip from memory; the directions they used to put in the flyers were much better. Anyway, we arrived at about 9pm, unpacked, put on some vaguely period garb, and made our way to the hall to meet up with William and Juliana, where Juliana and I put in some time practicing our dance for the A&S competition.

The next morning, I armored up for the Baronial fencing competition. As usually seems to be the case, I was doing quite well in the warm ups, but not so well in the actual competition. My first fight of the tournament was Jean-Michele, who I did, in fact, defeat. My second fight was Ysabel, who defeated me. Two rounds and out, it’s a familiar tale. Of course, this was designed to be a very “quick and dirty” tournament so the Baroness, Margery, and her successor, Katherine (who would be invested in court that night), wouldn’t have to stay out in the cold very long. Thus, it was a single-round, single-elimination tournament with “wounds” retained between bouts. Harsh.

I didn’t have time to stay for classes or pick-up fights in the afternoon, as I had to go clean up and change for the Performing Arts competition. Juliana and I danced Gracca Amorosa for it, which is a fun, fast Italian dance. The floor turned out to be a little more slippery than I expected when wearing my dance slippers, and I nearly wiped out on the first turn. That made me a little nervous for the rest of the dance, and I can see it in the video (which I’ll get posted at some point). I don’t know what score we got for the A&S competition, but we did win the performing arts category in the Magna Faire competition (which is judged by the other entrants in the category, not a team of dedicated judges).

Court saw the investiture of Baron Killian and Baroness Katherine and the elevation of Simon the Wayfarer to the Order of the Pelican, among other sundry awards. And Her Majesty Gwendolyn referred to herself as the “Snow Queen”. Cool.

Kojin presented a feast inspired by the countries of the Danube river, which went quite well. He even made green beans edible, which is a most impressive feat. The meal included some of his home-made mustards, and my sinuses were extremely appreciative of the clearing out.

A really marvelous revel, run by Adriana of Tor an Riogh (which I hope I spelled right) followed the feast. I wish every event had a big dance revel like this in the evening. There was quite a bit of teaching going on, but I really can live with that if it gets people to participate. Many thanks to all my lovely dance partners.

More pictures over at my Flickr page.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Party Win

Another long dry spell, another D&D post. Hopefully Magna Faire will generate something more substantive, but in the meantime...

The D&D game has kind of rebooted since the partial party kill, some of my players just didn't have that much interest in the first place, it seems, so I've got a new party of three characters working in essentially the same setting.

And they're learning.

Sent into the forest to find an abandoned wizard's tower (shuddup... it's an oldie but a goodie), they tried breaking through one entrance only to see some odd, multi-colored light through the crack under the door. In an epic moment of cautiousness, they backed off and tried other entrances. Eventually one of them climbed a wall and removed a bar from the inside, and they started moving back into the fort. They found a door with a genuine lock, which the party rogue handled without difficulty. They also found a flask of something together with some spearheads, so they assumed the flask to contain some kind of weapon poison.

Working their way in further, they got into the main tower and found the source of their multi-colored lights, a glowing blob that started whacking away at them with pseudopods. After just a couple of rounds of pounding the blob with assorted weapons, they quickly realized their blows weren't doing it any harm, and Aislinge (played by Juliana) put two-and-two together to come up with the idea of putting the contents of the flask on their weapons to see if that made a difference. Ding! A dagger coated with the oil from the flask made pretty quick work of the glowing blob.

They're learning to see a plot device when it's thrown in front of them. That was a good session.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Yeah, I know. The old blog hasn't been getting as many updates recently. The new "archive widget" to the right makes that pretty obvious, if you bother to look. This isn't much of an update either, I've just been looking at my sitemeter, and I feel the need to say something.

To all you people who've found the Saga via Google searches for "Carribbean porn" or "Scandiavian porn": ha ha!

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Scandinavian Food Porn

I made Fårikål last night.
  • 2 lb lamb from neck, shank or breast, together with the bones, cut into serving-size pieces
  • 2 lb garden cabbage
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • ~3 tsp peppercorns
  • 1-2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup hot water
The butcher at Publix conveniently cut up some lamb shank into small chunks. I cut the cabbage into segments and placed both the lamb and cabbage in layers in a large pot. Sprinkled flour, salt and peppercorns were thrown in where they could get on everything. Then I poured the water over the rest, brought it all up to a boil, and left it to simmer over low heat for a little over an hour.

Served over egg noodles, this went pretty well with a Chambourcin wine from Countryside Vineyard in east Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Crystal Ball XXV

Another fine trip to Crystal Ball this year. I didn’t pull the all-nighter this time, crashing after the fourth set instead (around 2-3 am) so I’d have some consciousness with which to drive home.

It’s actually getting hard to go to a dance event and find classes on a lot of dances that I don’t already know. Crystal Ball also tends to offer classes on a lot of dances and dance styles that aren’t really in the SCA period at all (such as Scottish country dances). Consequently, a lot of the classes I attended ended up being more review than actual learning.

Lady Azenari taught an English Country Dance class that included Nonesuch, Heralds in Love, and Picking of Sticks. I went to this one mostly for a review of Nonesuch. Alas, the Nonesuch and Heralds require sets of eight, and I was the ninth person in the class, so I spent quite a bit of time observing.

Lady Thea (Mistress? I don’t know her proper title) taught a Bassa Dance class that included Joyos, Basso Lauro, and Franchoise Novelle. This was a class from which I was really hoping to learn something, but I didn’t make much headway. I’ve taken bassa dance classes before, and I’ve always found them hard to follow, and I was frustrated again. Seignur Yves is planning to teach bassa dance again at Saltare; I’ve taken his class before, too, and he somehow manages to get it to make sense.

Over lunch there was a game of “Dance Jeopardy”, that Mistress Tsire cooked up. Something ain’t quite right in her head. Anyway, I managed to be on the winning team, thanks in some small part to my ability to completely dominate the Caroso category in Double Jeopardy. I'm glad they weren't picky about the whole "What is...?" convention, though.

Lady Azenari taught another ECD class in the afternoon, including Scotch Cap, Hyde Park, and My Lady Cullen. This one was mostly review, but a good review, as I’ve had few opportunities to dance these. My Lady Cullen is a progression dance that is quite fun and isn’t as wildly out-of-period as Hole in the Wall, even if it is a good bit more complex.

Mistress Tsire and Arina teamed up to teach a 15th-century Italian class including Amoroso, Leoncello Vecchio, and Gratioso. Amoroso is not at all new to me, but I’d never danced Leoncello before, and I hadn’t danced Gratioso since last Crystal Ball, so this was a good class for me to actually learn something, and Tsire always makes her classes fun.

And finally, Master Sion taught a 16th-century Italian class including Gracca Amoroso, Contapasso in Due, and Villanella. Okay, I was lazy. I’ve researched every one of those myself, so I was just a ringer in that class. It never hurts to practice, though, a sentiment that was apparently shared by almost everyone in the class. Even those who didn’t know those particular dances were thoroughly familiar with 16th-C Italian steps.

I don’t suppose a detailed listing of dances I did at the ball is really warranted here. Suffice to say, I danced a lot and came back with achy legs.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stop Sylvia Browne site update

As you may or may not have heard, the domain name registration for lapsed while the site owner, Robert Lancaster, was undergoing medical treatment. A cyber-squatter quickly seized it and replaced Robert's site with substantially different content of his own.

So, if you want to get the real scoop on Sylvia Browne, follow the link to get to the site at its new URL,

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Ragnvaieg found this beautiful little YouTube video and put it up on her LiveJournal, and I just had to spread the wealth around.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gatalop XXV

I actually burned a vacation day to go to the three-day Gatalop event over the weekend of the 24th. This event is held in Fort Gaines, a 19th-century fortress built to protect Mobile Bay against invaders, originally expected to be Spanish. It ended up trying to defend the bay against the Union navy during the Civil War. It may not be an actual medieval/renaissance castle, but it definitely has more atmosphere than the campgrounds and state parks that the SCA normally uses for events.

I spent Thursday night inside the fort in a little room that was probably a magazine or something. It had been raining all day, and many parts of the fort were lightly flooded (there was a moat about four inches deep around the Troll booth), but that little room had only one tiny drip which I was able to stay out from under easily.

After setting up my tent Friday morning, I armored up and went to find Falcon, the rapier marshal of the field. Fencing activities for Friday included tunnel battles and “crow’s nest” fights. The tunnel battles consisted of attempts to force entry into the fort through the main entrance tunnel, which was wide enough to drive an SUV through with a little room to spare. With seven fighters on the field, we had slightly unbalanced teams, and I was on the smaller side, but we still gave much better than we got in the tunnel fights, winning something like three out of four fights.

The “crow’s nest” was something new for me, although we may see it at Gulf Wars. It’s basically a six foot circle on the ground with a plank or post in the middle, representing the crow’s nest of a sailing ship. Four ropes lead from the ground outside the circle to the top of the post. Basically, someone “climbs” one of the ropes into the crow’s nest and tries to “kill” the person occupying it or force them out. Anyone stepping outside the circle without a hand on a rope “plummets to a painful death on the deck”. After some practicing with the concept, we started the actual Crow’s Nest Tournament, which was basically a “king of the hill” deal. One person started in the nest, and everyone else would try in succession to take it; whoever was in the nest at the end was the winner. Falcon decided that a young fellow named Nicholas and I were the most likely to survive a long stay in the nest, so we got to go first. Nicholas got me, but lost himself soon after. As it happened, the last person in the line up turned out to be the winner.

I managed to improvise a little bit of dancing on Friday night, but the courtyard of Fort Gaines isn’t a particularly well-suited place for it. Maybe I can get a gang together to go in the future and reserve one of the big rooms under the bastions…

Saturday fencing consisted of bridge battles and a tavern brawl. Each of the fort's bastions has a cannon emplacement on top, and there’s a bridge to the cannon. We had battles for control of one of these bridges. Barely wide enough to drive a car over, and we had four people on a side at this point. Different teams, and not as lopsided as the day before, but I still think we gave better than we got on my side. We had variations on these fights, too, including a round of daggers-only, and a battle in which fighters went on to the bridge one at a time, the loser of each fight joining the winner’s team until there was only one team left.

The Tavern Brawl was not a new scenario to me. Everyone sits at the table with weapons sheathed or otherwise set aside and plays with the plastic food and mugs until the “tavernkeep” asks “Who’s going to pay for all this?”, at which point a massive fight breaks out. This was a last-person-standing scenario, although I’ve done versions in which the object was to get out with the most food items. Anyway, while I didn’t win, I was the last to die, and I managed to drag that out in sufficiently entertaining fashion (including allusions to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which always seems to help) that I got a prize for Best Death.

I’m going to have to watch out for Nicholas. He was my nemesis all weekend. Time to put my Age and Treachery powers to work…

Saturday night was just a bit of socializing before bed.

Things to remember: earplugs might be nice. In the wee hours every morning I heard diesel engines so loud I thought a battleship was going by… turned out to be a teeny little shrimp boat.

All in all, I think I may try to make this event every year; it’s a good one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Allecto Returns to “Objects in Space”

I wasn't sure if I really expected her to come back to “Objects in Space”. I was starting to think she had lost interest, but I underestimate her dedication and persistence. She has mounted her soapbox again however to preach the misogyny of Joss Whedon and introduce us to her new buzzword: “whitemale”. Here's her premise for this episode:

I am going to look specifically at the construction of lust in the episode and the way in which Whedon characterises lust, the differences in his treatment of lust between his whitemale characters and his Black male characters. The way that Whedon positions the Black man as a violent, sexual monster and the relationship this construction has to the characterisation of whitemales as protectors/owners of white women.
Before we get into the discussion, you can take the opportunity to view the episode yourself. I discovered that the entire series can be watched online and even embedded in other web pages, so here's the subject of the discussion.

I should probably note that Allecto's premise rests on a pretty large assumption. She assumes that Joss Whedon wrote this episode knowing that the character of Jubal Early would be played by a black man. If Joss wrote the script without a man of any particular race in mind, only to have Richard Brooks cast in the role later, then her basic claim of racial bias falls to the ground. I've done a web search for interviews that might answer the question, but I haven't turned up anything. If you're reading this and you think you've got the answer, please leave a comment.

The straight whitemale is the default audience for Firefly and Whedon immediately sets up a paradigm of objectification of the female characters. In the first episode Serenity we have a deliberately provocative shot of Kaylee eating a strawberry. Soon after there is a shot of Inara half-naked, bathing in her shuttle. Both scenes cater for the whitemale sexualised gaze, setting up whitemale lust as a central and necessary part of audience engagement with the show.
Perhaps this is a good time to bring up the subject of executive meddling again. Networks are constantly trying to target their shows at particular demographics, and the group they target most are young males, because they seem to think that young males are the most likely people to go out and spend money in response to a television commercial. Call it misogyny if you like, but I think pandering to a young male audience is probably a requirement for getting his script approved, resulting in some rather gratuitous sexiness. Reportedly, Joss didn't even have the character of Inara in his original proposal, but the network execs insisted that he include a “space hooker”.

Anyway, Allecto is obviously bothered by the way that Joss's scripts, by original intent or by executive order, pander to the young male demographic. Quite frankly, I think the problem is less with Joss Whedon than with that demographic and the social standards of what's considered sexy. As I've said in previous responses to Allecto, she has a tendency to aim at the wrong target with her criticisms.

Anyway, on to what she really wants to talk about.

In Firefly we see lust being constructed in different ways. I would argue that Whedon has constructed Mal’s lust as the baseline and we use his lust as a measure of normality. Mal is a rough and ready kinda guy. He lusts but his lust is tempered by his inner moral code. This inner moral code seems to justify most male behaviour. You can be a scumbag, but as long as you don’t cross that invisible line, you’re really a great guy. This is the same moral code as the one in wider society where men are congratulated for not being rapists.
Mal is undeniably the central character, but there’s a huge range of sexual behavior present in Firefly. Besides Mal, who seems to be pretty middle-of-the-road, you’ve got Inara, who gets paid for it; Kaylee, who is very sex-positive and wishes she could get it from Simon; Simon, who is seriously repressed; Wash and Zoe, the happily married monogamous couple (which means – in Whedonland – that the relationship is surely doomed); Book, who is a celibate preacher; River, who’s too young for anyone to consider; and Jayne, who’s a pig. The closest one to being a “great guy” is probably Simon, or maybe Wash. People who have not had serious issues with abusive men in their past probably figure that Mal is “alright”. Your mileage may vary.

But the stupid men do not realise that it is only in a society where the majority of men are rapists that Nigels are congratulated for not being rapists. Stupid men. Anyway, Mal is a ‘safe’ man, because he never crosses that invisible line. Of course he rapes women. That is shown quite clearly in the episode Heart of Gold. Of course he treats women like possessions, that shines through clearly in his treatment of Inara, see episodes Shindig and War Stories. But that invisible stretchy moral line, he never crosses it. That makes him a good little Nigel.
Unfortunately, I’m not getting the Nigel allusion; it must be a European or Australian thing. I’m not at all sure what point she’s trying to make, either, since in one sentence she says that Mal never crosses the “invisible line” of rape, yet in the very next sentence she says “of course” he does. It’s particularly odd that she uses "Heart of Gold" as the example, since in the only episode in the entire series in which Mal actually has sex, Nandi has come on to him. There’s certainly an argument that the girls of the brothel might feel some obligation to the hired guns who have come to defend them, and Jayne definitely takes advantage of that, but Mal is quite clearly doing this job as a favor for Inara; he was not expecting any sexual favors from the brothel girls in exchange.

Having defined Mal as a rapist with good PR, she goes on to again describe Wash and Zoe’s marriage as an abusive relationship. This claim is so old and unjustified that I don’t want to go into it again. Suffice to say that she doesn’t believe a healthy relationship between a man and woman (let alone a white man and a black woman) is even remotely possible.

But lo and behold, she finally decides to address the character of Jayne in one of her posts. She touched on the subject before when addressing Mal’s concern for Saffron’s well-being when she suggested that Mal should shove Jayne out an airlock before he gets a chance to rape anyone, but this is the first time she’s spoken of Jayne Cobb directly.

We then come to Jayne. In the comments of my last post I analysed Jayne as Whedon’s ‘fall guy’ for feminism. I think Whedon deliberately exaggerates Jayne’s whitemale lustiness in order to define ‘proper’, egalitarian lust. So Jayne’s lust is caricatured and made fun of. His overt masculinity is contrasted with Mal’s kinder, gentler, more feminist desires. The whitemale audience is supposed to distance themselves from Jayne’s unsophisticated masculinity and are invited to position themselves within Mal’s paradigm. Not only this, but Jayne is subject to Mal’s rule. He is not the Alpha male on the ship, Mal is. Jayne’s unsophisticated lust is tempered by Mal’s leadership. Jayne, in his natural state, is a dangerous man, but Mal’s control of Jayne and his rapacious nature, renders him ‘safe’. This clearly positions Alpha whitemale’s as protectors of women and children and as regulators of other men’s sexuality.
There can certainly be no question that Jayne is a foil for Mal, but wow… just wow. Allecto can take a commonplace literary convention and run a marathon with it.

As an aside, this is why white men invade countries like Afganistan and Iraq and try to justify it by saying that their actions will spell women’s liberation. Whitemale think deplore the actions of other men, refusing to acknowledge the slaughter, terrorism and violence done in their own countries against women and children, by their own hands. Here we are talking again of the ‘good’ man Mal and the ‘bad’ man Jayne. In reality both commit violence against women, but each refuse to acknowledge their own violence.
Silly me, I thought the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were all about vengeance for 9/11, security of oil resources, and maybe settling old scores with Saddam Hussein, when it was really all about control of women’s sex lives. How could I have been so wrong?

Whedon explores a different kind of masculinity with the character of Simon. Simon’s masculinity is based on his intellectual achievements and social position. He acts as his sister River’s owner and protector, which also feeds into his sense of self. Simon’s intellect and compassion are mocked and punished by the ‘real men’: Mal and Jayne, who do their best to undermine Simon’s less valid claim to manhood. But Simon still wields his lesser manhood to some effect; his opinions matter more to Mal than the female characters opinions do. More air time is dedicated to dealing with Simon’s backstory than is given to the female characters. Simon still has male privilege, despite being a ‘lesser’ man.
Simon is almost certainly the most androgynous person on the ship. I suppose I should ask my female readers where he lies on their masculinity scale. Quite frankly, despite coming from a very privileged family, he’s surprisingly capable of standing up for himself in the rough-and-tumble environment of Serenity, and he absolutely owns the other guys on the ship when it comes to intelligence. I think Allecto is missing an important point about Simon, though; as a character, he’s secondary to River, and his backstory exists mostly to explain and extend hers. Following the events of the Serenity movie – in which River managed to become reasonably stable and self-sufficient – he must have a huge bull’s eye on his head.

Book’s character has already been commented on by a few other feminists and anti-racists, as being a stereotypical ‘magical negro’. I would agree with this assessment of his character.
If there were anything really “magical” about Shepherd Book, I might see where she’s coming from. He certainly has a mysterious background, but River is the only character who has anything “magical” going on.

EDIT: I took the liberty of looking up the term on TV Tropes, and I can see that. Of course, the TV Tropes article also argues that Book is actually a subversion of the trope.

Book is a kind of ‘Uncle Tom’ character, the opposite of Early who is Whedon’s whitemale pornographic fantasy of the Black man as a hypersexualised, aggressive monster. Whedon neutralises this threat in his Book character by making him subject to his religious principles. It goes without saying that what regulates Book’s sexuality is a whitemale belief system. His Bible is modeled on the Judeo-Christian tradition; which is inherently whitemale supremacist. So the threat of the Black man’s lust is shown to be regulated and neutralized by the white man. Book becomes feminised, neutered, unthreatening.
Book is undeniably a sympathetic character, and I don’t suppose it hurts that he’s a Christian, which is so widely seen as a positive in Western society (and I’m certainly not going to deny the misogynism inherent in the Bible), but feminized and unthreatening? This is the guy who casually points out that while the Bible forbids killing, it is non-specific on the subject of kneecaps. Watching this series, I quickly understood that there was a very dangerous man hiding behind the preacher façade.

Anyway, the summary is that she has decided that Joss Whedon uses Mal as a role-model for white male sexual behavior and defines him as the arbiter of other characters’ sexual activites. This is bad, of course, because Mal is a rapist (if you want to accept her definition of rape, which is essentially any intercourse between a man and a woman).

In the episode, “Objects in Space”, Whedon takes this regulation of desire another step and shows the whitemale defeating the monstrous manifestation of unleashed Black male desire. Again, I find it really fascinating how blatant Joss Whedon is able to be with his pornographic race-hating depiction of Black male lust.
I find this an odd premise, since Jubal Early’s behavior is just so asexual that I find it hard to see him as an exemplar of lust. Even his sexual assault threats – which are quite real and scary – have nothing to do with lust.

I would argue that Whedon is very definitely working within the Black man as sexual monster: Early; or neutered ‘Uncle Tom’: Book dichotomy, with his construction of Black male characters.

Early is played by a Black actor who is darker skinned and younger than the actor that plays Book. He is virile, uninhibited and very dangerous. He is depicted as cruel, depraved and not mentally balanced. His costume is a dark space suit, painted a burnished red, the colour of dried blood. The clarinet theme for the character is eerie and melancholic. Everything about the character screams malevolence.
Early is the villain of this piece; scariness is to be expected. As I’ve said, villainy should be just as equal-opportunity as heroism, so there should be characters of every race on both sides of the fence. He’s certainly no more despicable than the “rich white guy” villains Rance Burgess (“Heart of Gold”) and Adelai Niska (“The Train Job” and “War Stories”). There are two things I would like to see her prove, though, in order to make her point. 1) Early would not be as scary if he were not black, and 2) Joss Whedon wrote this role specifically to be played by a black man (as opposed to it being written without regard for who might be cast in the role).

When Early first boards the ship he immediately takes out Mal in a short and violent scene. He then locks most of the crew in their cabins while they are still asleep. Then suddenly he is in the engine room with Kaylee. Now this makes no sense to me in the scheme of the plot. Early’s supposed objective is to find River and take her to the Alliance. What the hell is he doing in the engine room? Oh, that’s right. We have to have a scene where The Black Man threatens The White Woman with rape.
Why is it so bizarre that he should end up in the engine room? It’s an open room fairly close to where he entered the ship, the lights are on, and there are sounds of someone working. He is working both to eliminate interference and to gain information.

Now, when he gets there and finds Kaylee alone, she’s absolutely right about what he does. He threatens to rape her if she doesn’t cooperate by telling him where River sleeps and then keeping quiet afterwards. It’s an absolutely evil scene. Stereotypical? Maybe. I don’t think it would be one whit less evil and scary if the villain were a white guy, though.

There’s nothing lustful about Early’s demeanor, either – just cold, calculated cruelty intended to force her submission. All he wants from Kaylee is information and non-interference, and his threat is just a means of coercion. It’s pretty horrific that he knows just how to threaten her to get her to cooperate, but how far is that from reality?

Of course, I’m neither female nor black, so I’m obviously not the most qualified person on Earth to decide if there’s cause for offense, here, but to me it's clear that Jubal is a character motivated by power, not lust. Power over women, men, or even animals (according to River's deductions about his childhood): what he controls doesn't matter to him, as long as he is in control.

Kaylee’s fear is absolutely central to this scene. Whedon emphasizes this in his commentary, excitedly describing Kaylee’s terror as ’so achingly perfect and beautiful’. No big surprise there, white men like Joss have always gotten off on women’s pain. But the extent of the white woman’s fear is the measure of Early’s maliciousness. The more fear he inspires in her the more monstrous he becomes.
I don’t know that Joss is “getting off” on Kaylee’s pain. He’s describing a scene that is very effectively evoking the desired reaction from the audience, which is to despise the villain. He describes River picking up a tree branch in the same terms. The entire point of this scene is to show what a ruthless and evil villain Early is.

Early visits Inara too. Again, inflicting pain on a woman by hitting her. Not because he has to. Neither Inara or Kaylee are a physical threat to him in the same way that Mal and Book are portrayed.
When that scene arrives, however, Early makes no threat of sexual violence towards her, presumably because he knows it will not be very effective against Inara, who doesn’t have the same fears. His blow is a direct response to her trying to "psychoanalyze" him, an attempt to gain power over him that he will not allow. It's impossible to know, of course, but I would not be surprised to see him react the same way if a man had tried to "visit his intentions".

EARLY (cont’d, to Inara): Man is stronger by far than woman. But only woman can create a child. That seem right to you?

Joss just loves putting pointed misogyny into the mouths of Black men, doesn’t he?
While the misogyny is unmistakable, I think this is the only misogynistic thing said by a black man in the series. For my explanation of how she completely misinterprets Book’s statement in “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, please see my previous article on the subject.

So Joss creates this Black male character who is a violent, malicious sexual monster. He is a bounty hunter and his bounty is River, a 16 year old white girl. Given the treatment we have seen him give Kaylee and Inara, the threat he poses to River isn’t really left up to our imagination.
Since I have trouble seeing Jubal Early as a sexual character, I naturally have trouble with this claim from Allecto. I think she has far more to fear from being returned to the Blue Sun Institute than from sexual attacks by Early.

A short description of Early’s defeat follows, after which Allecto pulls the following claim from somewhere.

Then River comes floating down from Early’s ship, an ecstatic look on her face as she is gathered up in her white saviour’s arms. The whitemale role as protector could not be made any clearer than it is in this scene.
Uhm… no. River, the teenage girl, is the one who planned and orchestrated the defeat of Jubal Early. Mal had a role in her plan, but so did Kaylee, so it’s actually 2-to-1 in favor of girl power, if you ask me. Mal is welcoming her back to the ship and showing both acceptance and gratitude.

The final scene shows River playing a game with Kaylee while the defeated Black monster is floating alone in space, becoming the final object in Joss Whedon’s phallosophising wankfest. The Black monster no longer poses a threat and the whitemale has emerged victorious having put down the threat to the (whitemale) social order. To quote Dines “King Kong’s death at the end of the movie remasculinises the white man, not only by his conquering of the black menace, but also by regaining the woman.” In Objects in Space Mal is able to reassert his ownership/protection of all three of the women threatened by Early: Kaylee, Inara and River.
How can one reviewer be so wrong? There’s usually a thread of credibility in Allecto’s Firefly reviews. Her complaints are, in my opinion, exaggerated, but there is usually underlying cause. Somewhere along the way, though, she goes completely delusional, and this is that place.

First, the "whitemale" did not put down the threat, the teenage girl did. How on Earth can anyone miss that? Please, I'd like to know.

Second, this closing scene is not about the crew celebrating the defeat of the “scary black man”; it’s a celebration of the acceptance of River. Before, she was an outcast who caused nothing but trouble, but now she has become a welcome and valued member of the crew. That’s the point that Joss Whedon is driving home with this scene.

Well, that concludes my analysis of Objects in Space. It would be remiss of me to talk about racism in Firefly without mentioning the appropriation of Asian culture within the series. Go here and here to read critiques of the series from that perspective.
It’s funny that she makes so little of this particular problem with Firefly. Given that the Alliance government that causes so much trouble for the crew is supposedly an alliance of America and China and that Mandarin Chinese phrases (usually expletives) are sprinkled through the show, there’s a conspicuous shortage of characters of Chinese descent.
Thanks to all the Whedonites who have been following my posts, I couldn’t have done this without you. (Scarily enough I actually mean that!)

And thank you, Allecto, for once again giving me blog subject matter. I suppose it’s time for the end-of-rant summary of her points:

  • Joss Whedon obviously wrote the role of Jubal Early with a black actor in mind.
  • Joss Whedon targets the audience demographic most desired by TV executives.
  • In modern society, any behavior short of indisputable rape qualifies a guy as “really great”.
  • Early went out of his way to find a young white girl to scare.
  • Early is motivated by lust (despite not actually acting on that lust, even when he has the opportunity).
  • Come to think of it, this whole episode is about lust.
  • River needs Mal to protect her from Early, even though Early had totally WTF?PWN!ED Mal earlier in the episode, and River planned and orchestrated both Mal’s rescue and Early’s defeat.
  • The upbeat ending celebrates Early’s defeat, not River’s acceptance into the crew.

In retrospect, Early actually seems to be a considerably less evil character than the show’s white villains. As frightening as he is to Kaylee, he actually goes to considerable trouble to avoid causing more harm than is really necessary to capture River and collect his bounty. He could have easily killed everyone in his way in his search for River, but chose not to. What a horrible monster that makes him.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Skeptics' Circle

Whattaya know? I got my act together and submitted an article to the most recent Skeptics' Circle. If you're finding out about it here, you've probably already read my article, but there's plenty more where that came from, hosted at Evolved and Rational.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dr. Horrible Embedded

Heh, heh...

It grows on you.

EDIT: Holy Cow! You can find all the episodes of Firefly on there!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Magic of Crystal Head Vodka

And just when I thought Dan Akroyd couldn't get any crazier.

Behold... Crystal Head Vodka! Complete with video advertisements by Dan Akroyd. Without even getting into the video statements, we hit the wacko quotient in the text of the homepage.
Thousands of years ago, thirteen crystal heads were scattered across the earth – and they are greater and more powerful than anything we have the ability to manufacture today. Their workmanship is perfect: they contain no tool marks and have been cut against the natural axis of the crystal, defying the laws of physics. Some say they are artifacts from the lost civilization of Atlantis, some say they date back to the Mayans, still others say they were created by a higher intelligence.
According to Dan, Hewlett-Packard (why is an electronics manufacturer considered an authority on quartz carving, anyway? -- edit: answer, HP apparently does have a crystals lab in Santa Clara) couldn't find tool marks on one such "crystal head" they examined in the 1960s, and "physicists and jewelers" say that such things couldn't be made: they would shatter before they could be completed. Heck, he even drops the idea (referencing the latest Indiana Jones movie, no less) that the crystal heads may have been made by space aliens.

Yeah, and apparently genuine scientific examinations (found by as amateur a source as Wikipedia) have determined that they were crafted in Europe using 19th-century jewelers' tools, the British Museum being the cited source (edit: also, in its actual article on the skull, HP makes no wild claims regarding the skull's manufacture, noting only that it was, in fact, carved from a single crystal of quartz). So much for their manufacture defying the laws of physics.

Dan doesn't waste much time before he remarks that psychic phenomena -- referring to ghosts, magic, psychic abilities, UFOs, etc. -- are "actual elements in our existence" because "over half the world believes in such phenomena". That's probably a low estimate, but you know what? Popularity is not equivalent to scientific accuracy. You can believe in psychic phenomena all day; everyone on Earth can believe in them, for all I care, but they're not proven to any reasonable degree or even likely until they can be shown to exist in repeatable scientific experiments. The James Randi Educational Foundation can tell you about the track record of "psychics" who have applied for their million-dollar prize. In a nutshell, even after they have agreed to all of the conditions of the test, psychics seeking to win the prize have a 0% success record.

The maker, Phil Power, then tells us about the "spiritual purity" of the vodka by noting that it is quadruple distilled, filtered through charcoal, and then filtered through "Herkimer diamonds", as if they would make any difference whatsoever, since diamonds do not have the absorbtion properties that make charcoal so effective in that role. (Edit: Upon further study, I find that "Herkimer diamonds" are actually a type of quartz; in any case, filtering through them would be equivalent to filtering through fine gravel or sand.)

Good grief. It may be good vodka for all I know (I'll probably try it to see how it compares to Iceberg and Viking Fjord if I can find it around here), but if it is, it will be because of the real science that went into its production, not the new age BS that Dan is peddling or the skull motif of its packaging.

UPDATE: Alison Smith at the JREF tried some Crystal Head vodka and described her experience. Not only is it inhumanely expensive, it's also particularly nasty vodka. Her words: "I think it's like nail polish remover."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What is wrong with Hollywood?

Various sources have drawn my attention to Hollywood stupidity, lately. Heroes is an obvious one; I like the characters and the concept, but the writers don't seem to have a clue what they're doing. Their idea of a plot seems to be passing an idiot ball from character to character until they reach the end of the season, then wrapping everything with deus ex machina. I mean, yeah, something cool happens in almost every episode, but the overall story is always a mess.

And now I hear that CW is going to produce a TV series about Dick Grayson before he became Robin. Yeah, take a character who has no crime-fighting history before his family tragedy, and suddenly have him fighting crime before that tragedy. That'll go over like Birds of Prey, only worse. The sad thing is, in both places where I got reports about this "new idea", the people bringing it up came up with better show concepts off the tops of their heads. No wonder TV viewership is swirling down the toilet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fishing Expedition

The view from the western lamp-post.And not even the evil internet kind. William and I drove up to visit Francesca over the weekend, where we were able to enjoy the benefits of her 5-acre lake by canoeing about it with fishing poles, searching for bass and catfish. We didn't get any catfish, but we overloaded on bass. The general consensus is that the bass are a little over-populated and exceedingly bored, so they'll even bite down on a bare hook just for a change of pace.

So dumb it will strike a bare hook.Consequently, we came off the lake with almost 30 "keepers" and had a fish fry that night on the back porch of Francesca's hobbit hole. I don't suppose there's much reason to post the whole procedure twice, so I'll just direct you all over to my LiveJournal post, in which I have more pictures and assorted details of the catching, cleaning, cooking, and consuming of a whole bunch of bass.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What is Abiogenesis?

Every now and then, somebody describes a scientific principle in a surprisingly easy way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An easily escapable situation...

... involving an overly elaborate and exotic death. Yes, that's what happens to intruders who wake me up at 3:30am two nights running by gnawing on rigid objects. I am not eager to kill, but I don't hesitate when something threatens my sleep.

The weapon of choice was a standard snap-trap. Beats the heck out of a glue trap -- I don't want the little vermin to die slowly of thirst. Let me assure you that the snap trap killed the little beggar instantly; I saw the damage.

The bait? Chocolate syrup. It's like mouse crack, and there's no way for them to get it without disturbing the trigger.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Past-Due Food Porn

Just a couple of cooking efforts from the past couple of weeks. William only downloaded the pictures from his camera last night.

Yum Nua Thai Steak Salad (Yum Nua)SchnitzelSchweine Schnitzel with Spaetzle and Red Cabbage

Substitute pork chops for the veal specified in the Schnitzel recipe. It's not bad as-is, but if we'd been thinking, we would have made a hunter sauce or something for it.

Sorry, but no one thought to take pictures of last night's Grecian Braised Chicken.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Preparing for Coronation

I spent some of the weekend helping to prepare for the upcoming Meridies Coronation. In particular, we'll be serving some fried fruit pies for breakfast Saturday morning, and we put those together this afternoon.

Bread mixerHighly unperiod kneading methodology.Assembly crewWilliam, Juliana, and Constanza work the dough.
Apple piesRectangular pies are apple.Rolling pin workRolling, rolling, rolling.
Blueberry piesTriangles are blueberry.Cherry piesTriangles with folded corners are cherry.

Make the dough, roll the dough, fill with fruit, fold, crimp, freeze. That was the plan for the day. The actual frying will occur on site. As noted above, the contents are coded by shape.

The lurking puppy is Randy, who was fervently hoping we would get clumsy and drop something good. He got lucky occasionally.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ah... Failblog

This is extra funny because I used to work for Shop at Home...

Other people's misfortune: is there anything funnier?

I'm assuming the host wasn't seriously hurt. That would make it not funny. He doesn't seem to be seriously hurt, though. Mostly pain.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Partial Party Kill

This post is all about D&D stuff. Feel free to move along if that doesn’t interest you.

The game last night ended with one casualty from the adventuring group. I’m hoping they’ll learn little things about the campaign from this: things like “sound carries”. (I know I'm picking on them, but if you can't laugh at a D&D game, what can you laugh at?)

The party (all first level, by the way) has been wandering around in a crypt trying to eliminate a problem with ghouls that have been plaguing the locals. They’ve long since determined that grave robbers had been at the place long before they arrived, but they did finally find a secret mausoleum that hadn’t been opened yet. So, naturally, they robbed it, setting off two traps that they had already discovered before getting at the little bit of loot therein. OK, I did put some loot in the sarcophagi expecting such, but it’s still kind of impolite. Not exactly a Lawful Good band of adventurers, here. Anyway, the traps were not excessively deadly, but the group did use up some of their healing magic to recover from them.

Of course, getting at that loot involved opening the sarcophagi (which is where the traps were set off) and then breaking open the coffins inside (which were nailed shut, naturally). Chopping through the lid of a coffin with a hand axe is not only uncivilized, it’s noisy. As I said, sound carries; in this case, it carried all the way down the hall to where the Big Bad was hanging out.

Big Bad was a fifth-level cleric. He was a somewhat fragile cleric, having no armor to speak of, mediocre hit points, and a selection of prepared spells that wasn’t exactly optimized for combat (The guy lived in an underground crypt, ok? Create food and water needed to be on his list). Encountered with just his one bodyguard, I figured he’d be manageable even for a party of first-level adventurers; I’ve seen published adventures with similar bosses. Plus, he’d be worth a ton of experience for them.

Alas, as I’ve said, sound carries. Big Bad heard the chopping and decided to see what was going on. Not being an idiot, he brought not only his bodyguard, but gathered up all the other zombies he had in the vicinity, as well. The rating of the encounter jumped from “very difficult” to “overpowering”.

Fortunately, the party was able to hear them coming (the Big Bad’s bodyguard was a zombie dwarf in full armor). Not so fortunately, they rushed out into the hall to take him on. Thanks to the non-existence of his armor and the non-confrontational nature of his prepared spells, they did manage to drop him. One of the players even thought of using a Bull Rush to displace the zombie line so they could reach him.

Of course, by the time they did get him down, he’d already incapacitated one of the party clerics, and the other was soon dropped by a zombie. The dwarf zombie bodyguard fell, but the party’s dwarf fighter was himself brought to the brink of collapse by the two remaining zombies.

The remaining party members, the party rogue and the barely-standing dwarf, began a fighting retreat, leaving the party clerics on the floor to bleed to death (the right thing to do, mind you… staying to fight the zombies would have certainly led to a total party kill). The dwarf used up all his throwing axes and a one-shot magic hammer they'd been given before starting the mission to bring down one of the two remaining zombies, while the rogue pelted the other with a few sling bullets before realizing they were having no effect whatsoever.

Finally, they remembered they had flasks of oil in their packs. Four improvised Molotov cocktails (with very lucky to-hit and damage rolls) later, the last zombie was a smelly heap of burned icky stuff on the floor.

Did I mention that the clerics totally forgot that they can turn undead? They did.

One of the fallen clerics stabilized, but the other bled out and perished, meaning they will have to recruit a new character. Maybe the party will have an arcane spell caster next time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There's a Java applet by an IBM employee that takes text -- hand-typed or linked from a web page -- and slaps it into a sort of word-collage. Naturally I had to run it against the Saga just to see what would happen. Taken out of context, the result is actually somewhat incriminating.

Click the image to go to the Wordle site and see the thing full-size.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hobbit Script Heads for Disaster

I was afraid something like this would happen. Peter Jackson has decided to write the screenplay for The Hobbit himself, with some help from director Guillermo del Toro. He didn't do enough damage to The Two Towers and The Return of the King, so he has to abuse The Hobbit, too.

Dreary, dreary me.

In case you're wondering why this annoys me, let me explain a bit:
  • Merry and Pippin were not idiots (in fact, they planned and executed Frodo's escape from the Shire).
  • Aragorn was not a self-doubting emo.
  • Legolas was not Neo.
  • Gimli was not cheap comic relief.
  • Frodo was not a damsel in distress, and he never went to Osgiliath.
  • Faramir was not Boromir-light.
  • Frodo and Sam never had a falling out.
It's one thing to edit the story for the big screen; it's another to radically change it. About the only thing he got unequivocally right was Boromir.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinoki Exposed: Go NPR

Remember how I talked about the foolishness of Kinoki footpads a few months ago?

Well, NPR carried a story about them last night. Seems they went and performed some of the tests we were all wanting to hear about. They did before-and-after tests on Kinoki footpads to see if they actually picked up any heavy metals or other toxins after being on someone's feet overnight. The result? No difference in composition between a used pad and an unused pad: no toxins or metals picked up.

And the discoloration of the the Kinoki pads? Seems that if you hold a Kinoki pad in the steam from a pot of boiling water, it will turn black; something in them darkens when exposed to warmth and moisture.

The Verdict: Kinoki pads are completely useless. I can't say I'm surprised.

I'm also not surprised that the makers of Kinoki didn't return NPR's phone calls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Long Line

For your instruction herein, when you practice in a chamber, look what board you stand upon; you should in delivering either blow or thrust always step fourth with your right foot upon the same board which the left foot stands on, for look how much you left your fore foot wide of the straight line towards your enemy, you lose so much in your reach forward, as in your practice you may see the trial and used often in practice in some chambers with your friend until you are perfect.
--Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Chapter 12
In a nutshell, to get the longest possible lunge, you should not just move your lead foot straight forward, but actually move it directly in front of your other foot, so your two feet fall in a line directly toward your opponent. If you step off that line by any amount during your lunge, you lose that amount from the reach of your thrust. Interesting. I'll have to practice that when I get a chance. Seems like it would make you a bit unstable on a lunge, but Swetnam's basic stance sounds awfully unstable, too, yet you get used to it after a while.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Know Your Enemy

"This know and remember it well, it is the nature of an Englishman to strike with what weapon soever he fights with all, and not one in twenty but in fury and anger will strike unto no other place but only to the head."
--Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Chapter 12
I guess this just goes to show what influence the behavioral tendencies of opponents in a given area are likely to have upon the techniques developed by professional fighters there.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Music in the Vines

Music in the VinesThis post combines basic entertainment with a bit of food porn. William, Juliana, and I went down to Arrington Vineyard for one of their "Music in the Vines" evenings. It's basically a big, open picnic with a small band. Arrington really is a beautiful place to sit out on a warm summer evening, sipping wine and nibbling something fancy.

KjottsalatWhich brings us to the food porn aspect of this post. I went on a Norwegian cooking spree this weekend, with the help of William and Juliana, of course. We did all the cooking on Friday, and had a dinner of Kjottsalat with Hassellback potatoes and sugar snap peas. All good stuff, and pleasantly cool for summer. Also, on Friday night, I started the Beer Pickled Salmon that we would be having the next day at the vinyard, along with spinach salad, bread, cheese, and assorted fruit. Light fare, but wonderfully decadent, and also cool for a warm summer night. It's a good thing I ended up making a lot more salmon that we actually needed, because the staff at Arrington really wanted to try it.

TablegatingThere's a "tablegating" contest at these events, too, to have the spiffiest table setting. Naturally we wouldn't want to disappoint in that area, and with all the feastgear that SCA people accumulate, we were pretty well prepared for setting a nice table. Alas, no one from Arrington came around to say whether anybody actually won the contest that night; given how overrun they were in the wine room, I doubt they had any time to spare for it. Oh well, we'll be back to try again.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dr. Horrible

I finally got around to watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Not too impressed, really. Joss Whedon has done the musical bit before (Buffy, "Once More, With Feeling"), so that's not much of an innovation. It's pretty much a bog-standard villain origin story, so nothing new there, either. The only thing really new about it is the internet delivery mechanism.

And since I've already gone on at length about accusations that Joss Whedon is anti-feminist, I might as well point out that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is fodder for their claims, since Penny is a classic example of the Woman in the Refrigerator.

Gotta love "Bad Horse: The Thoroughbred of Sin", though.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Allecto Considers "Objects in Space"

Well, Allecto has spoken about Joss Whedon and Firefly again. I've delayed any sort of response to this for a long time, since at first glance it looked like she was hardly addressing the subject matter. I've finally gotten around to reading the whole thing, and she really doesn't, but she manages to completely analyze Joss Whedon (and all male writers) from two paragraphs in a video commentary (is your sarcasm detector working).

Ok, so I’m currently thinking a lot about the episode of Firefly, "Objects in Space". This was the last episode of the TV series before production was stopped. And as such it became one of the most important to the fans of the series. Now I did want to talk about the racism of this particular episode. And I will. I will be focusing particularly on the construction of lust, both in this episode, and in the series as a whole. But first I wanted to talk a little about male philosophy as Wank.

Since the villain in this episode happens to be a black man, it comes as no surprise that she's going to declare it racist. We'll see if she has any decent reasoning other than "there's a black man who loses to some white folks". First, however, we have to wade through a long philosophical digression, in which she will claim that Whedon (along with a lot of well-known philosophers from history) is a self-obsessed misogynist who can only write stories that promote male supremacy and reduce women to sex objects. According to her, he has something called Male Artist Syndrome (a term coined by another radical feminist she refers to as Dissenter, with a link to her blog), which makes him incapable of recognizing women as creative beings. In his writings, women only exist to boost his ego by agreeing with his ideas and adoring his work.

She quotes from Whedon's commentary on the episode, in which he describes a "philosophical epiphany" he had while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which started him thinking about his existence and place in the world. He subsequently read Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which he says made him think about "the pain of being of things and their existence outside of their meaning". Allecto decided that she needed to read Nausea to see what so fascinated Joss Whedon, and concluded that Sartre is a narcissistic misogynist obsessed with sexual exploitation of children. I haven't read Nausea and have no inclination to do so, so I have no idea whether she's close to the mark, there. If the quotes that she provides are any indication, I'm not missing anything.

There are many more disturbing things about the book Nausea but I am not going to list all of them. I just wanted to make the point that the book is sickeningly sexist. And Sartre, like Whedon, suffers from an acute case of Male Artist Syndrome.
The quotes she provides are unquestionably disturbing, but whether these kinds of passages are what caught Joss Whedon's attention is completely unknowable. She has a pattern of latching onto the worst possible statements or events in any given story or writing, though, so I don't really know if they're characteristic of the whole book.

But let’s go back to Whedon’s little existential epiphany. I would argue that straight, white, rich, Western men like Joss are the only ones who have the luxury of waiting until they are 16 in order to realise that they exist and that their existence is meaningless. Straight, white, rich, Western men are the only ones who have the luxury of realising this and calling it philosophy. So Joss shared his touching memory about realising that he existed and that life and death happened. He called his Wank an epiphany even, as he sat in his rich, white comfort, watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I don't know much about Joss Whedon's background. I don't know whether he was "rich" back in 1977 when Close Encounters came out. His father was apparently a successful TV writer for some sitcoms, so he probably wasn't suffering. At any rate, he apparently had a much more comfortable childhood than Allecto, who relates her own "epiphany" story of how she contemplated suicide at age eleven.

I did not have the luxury of waiting until I was 16 to have an epiphany about the fact that the world existed, that I existed and that I was meaningless. I did not have the luxury of realizing that death existed in an abstract fashion while sitting in a cinema. The knowledge of death, for me, was graphically represented by the thought of my body lying lifeless on the concrete. My knowledge of life and death, my struggle to exist as a multiracial female under white male supremacy has been a struggle since the day I was born.

There were never any easy answers. But this story is not one about an epiphany, this story did not make me who I am today. The only thing that I learnt from sitting on that balcony was the fact that I am too spineless to kill myself.

But men like Whedon and Sartre take one look at the fact that their lives are meaningless and their next step is to make books and TV shows about meaninglessness and they call it philosophy!!!
Apparently if you didn't have as difficult a childhood as Allecto, you aren't entitled to think of any thoughtful moment in your life as "philosophical". Not that I think her characterization of his "epiphany" is all that accurate, since I don't think his quote shows that he suddenly started feeling that life was "meaningless", nor do I think that "Objects in Space" expresses such a sentiment.

EDIT: Nor does Joss Whedon say it's about meaninglessness. Here's his statement from an interview.
It was very much an existential statement on the meaning of objects in space and how they contain meanings within themselves; how we approach that and about two people that see them in a way that every day people don’t, and what the essential difference is, which is that one of them, the bounty hunter, is innately bringing evil with him and one of them, River, is innately bringing love.
Back to Allecto.

My discussions with Dissenter have provided valuable insight into the reasons that men Wank and call it philosophy. "Men’s lives are an exercise in futility," she says, "males are essentially pointless so they have to have all of this existential angst about their lives." This is true. Men, being rather superfluous creatures, must excrete Phallosophical Wank and believe it to be meaningful.

For women, life is not about meaninglessness. For women, life is a struggle to create meaning. Women do not write books about being nauseated by our own existence. There is a whole world FULL of men out there who are already nauseated by our existence. Women write about the power and the meaningfulness of existence, of life, in its own right. This is powerful magic; the beauty of existing, the beauty of surviving.

And Allecto's own prejudices come bubbling to the surface in a stream of anti-male BS. To all men life is meaningless, but to all women, life is a struggle to create meaning. I wonder if she has any clue what a hypocrite she is.

And after all that, she never actually got around to addressing the content of "Objects in Space". Apparently it was just inspiration for a tirade against men who have the audacity to think they've had moments of philosophical insight. This post doesn't even rate a summary of her points, since she only has a couple that really address the content of Firefly.

Edit: She does eventually address the actual content of "Objects in Space", though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Food Porn: Keow Nam

So, I was on my way to visit William and Juliana last night, and I asked if they needed me to pick up anything on my way. Apparently there was no plan whatsoever for dinner, so I got free reign to do anything I wanted.

Thai Taste restaurant used to have a really spectacular wonton-soup-type of dish called Keow Nam. I decided I was going to try to accomplish a decent approximation of it, so I went to K&S World Market for supplies. K&S has everything under the sun in the way of international groceries, but finding it all can be a pain. Perseverance pays off, though.

Keow Nam:

  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 3 cups (approximately) of baby bok-choy stalks, roughly chopped
    (save the leaves to serve under laab or something; that's another post)
  • 1 small bag of oriental dumplings (pork with celery, in this case)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the chicken stock, fish sauce, and bok-choy in a pot, bring them to a boil, and let them simmer until the bok-choy is tender. Add the dumplings and black pepper and let them simmer a few more minutes to get the dumplings hot all the way through. That's all there is to it.

EDIT: Picture now added to the post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

I thought I'd mention that I did see The Dark Knight over the weekend. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that is an excellent movie, but it is definitely very dark.

OK, potential spoilers from here on.

This movie is definitely The Empire Strikes Back of the new Batman franchise. It's arguably a victory for the good guys, but the price is very high.

This movie is also extremely disturbing. It's not quite torture porn, but the Joker brings very much the same kind of sick, sadistic vibe to the picture. The Joker is not funny or slapstick -- he's a nihilistic killer, pure and unadulterated. He's homicidally insane, and he wants to take everybody he doesn't kill down to his level. Heath Ledger pulled off the role exquisitely, but I can see where just portraying this kind of psychopath might make a guy a little crazy.

There are some great lines in this movie, too. I think the one that may have moved me the most was this one: "Give that to me, and I'll do what you should have done ten minutes ago." You'll understand when you see it.

Sci-Fi Geekdom

This really doesn't require an explanation. Heck, it doesn't really even have a plot; it just looks cool.

Monday, July 21, 2008

RUM Has Passed

I think RUM turned out to be an excellent event. Lady Xantha really outdid herself with the buffet (I need recipes for several of the dishes), and the classes looked to be well attended despite the expense of travel these days. I managed to teach all three of the dances I planned for my class: Contrapasso, Villanella, and Ballo del Fiore. I also stayed around as a designated "ringer" for the other dance classes, and those turned out to be great fun as well. Dance after the feast was improvised, but still fun. Now that I'm nearing the end of my programming classes, I will hopefully be able to get back to shire meetings so we have dance on the schedule at future events.

Along the same lines, we now have a venue for dance classes, which should be starting up next month. This pleases me greatly, and many thanks go out to Juliana for arranging the place.

Monday, July 14, 2008

RUM Approaches

The Royal University of Meridies is coming up next weekend. I couldn't let that go without teaching a class, so I'm signed up to teach 16th Century Italian Dance. I think I'll be teaching Contrapasso, Villanella, and Ballo del Fiore -- nothing too difficult. I should probably practice Villanella a few times before I teach it.

I have received requests to organize some dancing for the Meridien Grand Tournament. I'm not sure what route to take with that one. I suspect it will have to be a teaching ball, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I think my August event will end up being Beggar's Rebellion, so I'll throw a plug in for that, too.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Border Raids 2008

This was actually my first trip to Border Raids. It actually wouldn’t have been a bad drive if it hadn’t taken me over an hour just to get through Nashville. Going to and from work I generally have the luxury of taking the most recently expanded freeways, but heading up to Kentucky I wasn’t so lucky.

Friday night was trying. Getting to site and setting up my tent was easy enough, but we had some nasty thunderstorms over night, and I spent a good bit of it awake making sure I didn’t get too much water pooling on top of the tent. There were predictions of similar storms for Saturday, but fortunately they never materialized and the weather was excellent all day and all night.

Theoretically the fencing activities were to start at 10am, and I actually did get my armor and equipment inspected then, but because some of the heavy fighters on both sides intended to switch equipment and play in the fencing battles, too, we actually delayed the fencing activities until the heavy battles were over. We Meridiens spent the time bearing water for the heavy field.

Things could have gone better on the heavy field. Our kingdom has plenty of great fighters, but not many great fighting units. Our heavies tend to fight as a bunch of individuals seeking to win the battle with personal heroics, while the Midrealm fields more of an organized army with a coherent plan. Consequently, we didn’t do well in the field battles, while our fighters did well in the Champions tournament that was held later.

On the fencing field, the situation was much different. We had a lot of experienced fencers on the field, and most of us have fought as a unit in field battles at Gulf Wars. The Midrealm side, on the other hand, had a lot of pretty new fighters, although they did have a unit that practiced together. All the same, we dominated the fencing field and won our two out of three rounds in quick succession to secure the war point. Lord Feodor also won his fight in the Champions Tournament.

Following the war point activities, we had a charity tournament for the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center. Together the light and heavy tourneys raised $590. Lord Tristram won the fencing prize (a spiffy baldric made by Feodor).

Their Majesties and Highnesses of both the Midrealm and Meridies held a combined court Saturday evening, and King Lutr of the Midrealm has a rather pleasant custom for his courts; he has an intermission in which food and drinks are served (including brats and beer at this event).

Taddea and I held an improvised dance that night. Not a huge turnout, but not bad for something that was never on the schedule.

I’ll see about posting some of my pictures from the event. I didn’t take them myself, but a lovely young lady at the fencing field was kind enough to put my camera to some use for me.

Edit: Pictures added. Alas, all of them are from the fencing field, since the camera's battery ran out there.

Monday, June 23, 2008

To the Pain

Silly, silly, silly...

I like silly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some Overdue Pictures

These are from Kingdom A&S and War College.

Laws and Theories

There’s a misconception among people who are not scientists or science enthusiasts that a scientific law is somehow superior to a scientific theory, as if a law is “proven” while a theory is just an educated guess. Apparently people confuse a theory with a hypothesis, which really is a guess based on the available facts (it doesn’t help that “theory” has the same meaning as “hypothesis” in common use). Hypotheses that withstand rigorous testing can go on to become theories, but there is no equivalent “upgrade” from theory to law. There is no such thing as a theory or law that is “proven true”; there are only theories and laws that are consistent with the evidence.

A theory, then, is an explanation for some observed phenomenon that fits all the known facts. It is quite possible for more than one theory to explain a particular phenomenon; that’s where the principle of parsimony or “Occam’s Razor” comes into play. Basically, this principle says that any component of the theory that isn’t absolutely necessary to explain the phenomenon doesn’t belong in the theory.

The most blatant example of how laws are not superior to theories is Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which supersedes Newton’s Laws of Motion. Einstein’s Theory or Newton’s Laws both describe the motion of matter, and either can do the job well most of the time, but Newton’s Laws are usually easier to use: the math is just simpler to do. However, Einstein’s Theory is actually more accurate, especially in unusual situations, such as when an object is moving extremely quickly (as in “approaching the speed of light” quickly).

Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone try to dismiss a scientific theory as “only a theory” (a very popular phrase among pseudo-scientists and anti-scientists).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brief K A&S Update

Kingdom A&S was hot. Really hot. Cooking in your own juices hot. We elected to drive home in the wee hours rather than endure sleeping another night in the heat. Fate approved of our choice, since the power went out at the event site, causing the evening ball to be canceled.

Villanella scored 17/20. Not bad for its first time out. There were video recorders on the scene, so I will link to video when it becomes available. Once I manage to get the right USB cable, I will also upload my own pictures.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kingdom Arts & Sciences

Gotta post something, even if I haven't got pictures from last event up yet (I appear to have thr wrong USB cable for my camera).

So, I'll be at Kingdom A&S this weekend. I have a performing arts entry, which is a collaboration with Lady Juliana Eileen ingen David, who has researched and arranged the music for the dance I'll be performing, Villanella. She will also be performing the music live for us on her harp. Having practiced to some of her playing, I'm not-so-gently nudging her to record an album of dance music.

KA&S is going to be a busy time for me. I generally don't plan on doing any fencing at major A&S events, but this time I have the Iron Ring of Meridies, and I think I would be remiss to go to a big event and not give some people a shot at it, so I'm planning to armor up early to provide those opportunities. I'll have to leave the field by about 11:00, though, so I can get cleaned up and go to my first-ever Order of the Velvet Owl meeting. After that, there's the Saltare Guild meeting, followed by a few hours of practice before the performing arts competition, in which I'm lucky enough to have Lady Ginevra Brembati as my dance partner.

It'll be hectic day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Long Weekend

Memorial Day weekend was actually quite busy for me. The Shire of Crimson River held their first Spring War College event on Saturday at Long Hunter State Park. That’s so close to home that it would be ridiculous not to go. I spent most of the morning on the rapier field practicing melee tactics, then went down to the archery range to join the Queen’s Yeoman tournament. I made it back up to the rapier field towards late afternoon to challenge Ysabel (successfully) for the Iron Ring of Meridies. I think the highlight of this match was actually the first round, since both Ysabel and Feodor had fencing-legal two-handed swords on site that we used for the first round of the match. For those interested, the Precious’s next stop is Kingdom Arts & Sciences.

Sunday I joined a trip to the zoo with some folks from the event: Taddea, Sophia, and some of their family and friends. I hadn’t visited the zoo in years, and I knew there had been some significant expansion, so I was glad to join their trip.

Monday I went with Juliana and William to the last day of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. It was a beautiful morning and a rainy afternoon, but quite a fun trip overall. We spent a good bit more time shopping and socializing than seeing shows, which is actually a switch from previous years for me.

Pictures will have to wait for me to get the appropriate USB cable for my new camera (although Juliana sent me this one of our RenFair group, which is good, since I didn't even remember to take my camera that day).

Friday, May 16, 2008


This is not a photoshop or computer-generated image.

That's a genuine personal, jet-powered flying wing invented by Yves Rossy. It's powered by several model-plane jet engines, and it doesn't actually have enough power for take off; he has to jump out of a plane like a parachutist. He apparently steers like a sky-diver by just shifting his weight and using his limbs as control surfaces.

And, yes, he does have a parachute.

Some people are too cool for words.