Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A New Firefly Criticism

Back-to-back posts! I'm on a roll!

In an article I recently found on the internet, the author complains that in the cult TV series Firefly, the relationship between Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his second-in-command, Zoe Washburn, is “yucky” because of an unfortunate connotation of some of the show's Civil War references.
The problem with using the Civil War as a subtext is that Joss Whedon’s ancestors weren’t slaves. So he seriously thinks that in Zoe, Mal’s second-in-command and only surviving member of his unit, he’s done a subversive little trick. She’s black! She’s a she! She can fight so good! She’s a soldier just like Mal, etc, etc.

Mr. Whedon must have fallen asleep during the part in class where they discussed how some slaves stayed with their masters even after emancipation.
The problem with this whole line of reasoning is that it assumes that the Independent faction in Firefly’s civil war corresponds to the Confederacy in the American Civil War, while the Firefly Alliance corresponds to the Union.

At a glance, that’s not much of a stretch. Both the Union and the Alliance consist of older “states” with greater wealth and more firmly established industrial bases, while both the Confederacy and the Independents are relatively new “states” with more agricultural economies. Furthermore, the Independents' primary complaint seems to be onerous control by a central authority, which was at least the public reason for the defection of the Confederate states.

The author uses this reasoning to conclude that Zoe is a former slave of Mal’s, now free, but still following him out of some sense of misguided loyalty.

The problem with this reasoning is what we know about the actual institution of slavery in Firefly, which is still legal and practiced on the core worlds of the Alliance, but not so much on the marginally pacified border worlds that used to be Independents. In Firefly, the victorious “Union” is the defender of slavery, not the defeated “Confederacy”.

It’s impossible to cast Zoe in the role of freed slave still following “massa” (as the author puts it) when there’s really no indication that Zoe was ever anyone’s slave. It’s not even clear that there’s racial selection involved in the Alliance’s designation of slaves: we hear slaves discussed a few times, but we never actually saw any to see if they have any physical characteristics in common.

Update: In "Jaynestown", we see a colony where a population of "mudders" are described as indentured servants (a tiny step above outright slavery) working for the Alliance governor, and they were mostly (if not entirely, I wasn't paying that much attention) white.

This doesn’t mean race and racism aren’t factors in Firefly. Most of the wealthy aristocrats we see on the core worlds of the Alliance are lily white, with the major exceptions being government agents hired to do the Alliance’s dirty work. The lower class “Independents”, on the other hand, have more of a racial mix. A major flaw in the show, as I’ve noted before, is the conspicuous shortage of characters of Asian descent, particularly in a setting where Chinese phrases are frequently bandied about.

So, once again, we have a social criticism of Firefly that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Platinum Fuel Saver and its Spokesperson

Real content for a change... imagine that.

As I may have mentioned before, I spend some time listening to talk radio. In particular, I listen to the Michael Savage show when driving home in the evening because it’s more effective at keeping me alert than classical music, and I don’t particularly like the other music stations around here.

If you’re not familiar with Michael Savage, he’s a conservative shock-jock who broadcasts from San Francisco, CA. I like to think I can judge the integrity of a talk show host by the kind of products he advertises, particularly if he’s the spokesperson in the ads.

Michael has been advertising something called a Platinum Fuel Saver recently. The makers claim that a car with this device installed will use 22% less fuel. According to them, it increases the amount of fuel actually burned in the engine from 68% to 90%. Michael basically repeats these claims in the ads that he has recorded for them.

Alas, Consumer Reports tested this device, and they found that it has no effect at all on a car’s fuel efficiency: you basically spend $250 for nothing (more if you do some of the unscheduled maintenance on your car that the device maker recommends).

If a host repeats claims about a product on his show that don’t stand up to independent testing, should we trust him on any other claims that he makes?

Monday, December 13, 2010

March of Cambreadth (Babylon 5)

It's been way too long since I posted anything, but another gratuitous video can help fill the void.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Fechtunek

Gratuitous German longsword video.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mystique

Ultimate Halloween costume.



And because Halloween itself should have more than one video...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Haunted Nashville


I went on a date to Haunted Nashville last night. There are some spoilers in here as you move along, so if you don’t want to know anything more than “it’s a fun house that won’t do anything really annoying”, you can stop reading now.

Nena was actually kind of worried that some of the activities would trigger her phobias, but at no point in Haunted Nashville does anyone deliberately touch, grab, or chase you. In fact, many of the monsters are quite polite, as they indicate which direction you should go when you’re having trouble finding the next doorway in the dark.

Turbidite Manor was probably the most fun of the three tours. It has the best special effects, including both animatronics and holograms. They also put characters in this one with real lines. Nena had her finest moment here, as one of the “apparitions” follows you out of one of the scenes, saying spooky things. Unfortunately for her, she moved a little too soon, and she didn’t realize that Nena and I were behind her as she followed the rest of the group down the hall. As a result, when she broke character and turned to go back to her hideout, Nena was able to startle her.

Epidemic is less interesting, in that it doesn’t really have any impressive special effects. The theme here is people jumping out of dark corners and making loud noises right next to you. The character who introduced us at the entrance to this one played his part marvelously, though.

House of Distortion is somewhere between. There are a lot of long, dark hallways where people jump out at you, but there are also some pretty impressive animatronics, and the “electrified windows” are a pretty neat effect, too.

I don’t think I’ll want to do this every year, as I suspect it will tend to be repetitive, but I’ll probably look for some other “haunted” attractions around Nashville for the future.

Trial by Stone

Evil muppets.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Cave

Also in the "you might want to rent it for Halloween" series...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Mask

The best Jim Carrey movie ever.



Might be the only one really worth seeing, actually.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Manliest Movie Ever

Or so someone thinks of Fist of the North Star (the original anime version).



Lots of gratuitous bleeding.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rhinehart's Oyster Bar

Visiting someone in the hospital isn't the best reason to go on a trip, but Nena and I did get to try a new restaurant in Augusta, GA while visiting Decca. Rhinehart's came up on Urban Spoon, and it's completely awesome.


It has a gravel parking lot, and there's graffiti all over the walls inside. It reminds me of the Crazy Cajun in Gray, TN (which, as far as I know, hasn't re-opened since the kitchen fire). The oysters and jambalaya are excellent (although the jambalaya will light you up a bit), and the Hurricanes are killer. Important safety tip: stop at one Hurricane! I had a second and, enjoyable though it was, I was feeling it the next day.

None Shall Pass!

Nope... not Lord of the Rings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

There's Nothing Out There

Sometimes, in a horror movie, there's one guy who knows what to do.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Darkseid

Superman gets into a toussle with Darkseid in one of the animated movies. Villains don't come much more badass.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Scream of Ktchooloo

If you're unfamiliar with Call of Cthulu (the game, the story, and the horror fiction genre), you won't fully grok this video, but I think it's still funny enough.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eclipse Trailer

It deserves no better.





Come to think of it, it deserves worse.

Vampires do not sparkle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Science in the Media: Ridiculous Hype

Physorg.com is reporting the discovery of "transparent aluminum". Here's the tag line from the article:
"Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. 'Transparent aluminium' previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion."
Of course, if you read the article, you'll quickly realize that this opening statement is composed primarily of cattle droppings. Let's look at the details:
  1. Changing the state of the aluminum requires bombarding it with an x-ray laser that draws enough electricity to power a city.
  2. It isn't really transparent. Only extreme ultra-violet light gets through, not visible light.
  3. The aluminum only remains in the altered state for about 40 femtoseconds (a femtosecond is one millionth of one billionth of a second, if you're not a technogeek). To paraphrase Doctor Manhattan, it's an event that occurs so quickly that it can barely be said to have occurred at all.
The experiment is interesting because it allows scientists to see how matter behaves in extremely high energy states, such as might be found inside a star. This experiment has no relevance for construction materials, yet the reporter is acting as if it does.

X-Men

Cause how much more Halloweenie can you get?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Retro Avengers!



In other news, some of my friends won Best in Show at the Dragon*Con masquerade for their "Steampunk X-Men".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Trip to the Cemetery

I'm not sure whether the silly label applies to this or not.



Geeky, obviously, but silly?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cybermen vs Daleks

Daleks kick Cyberman ass.



Of course, the Doctor scares all of them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tasty, Tasty Brains!

I think sequels seldom live up to the original, but this particular scene is pretty darn creepy. Not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bedfellows

Something Patricia Tallman shared with her FaceBook fans back in July.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Predator Fridge Logic

I wonder what it would be like if horror movie characters thought of these things.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Dexter" Fridge Logic

So I've been roped into watching Dexter recently (not that I'm suffering or anything), and I noticed something that triggered my geek reflex. This kind of thing might involve spoilers, so anyone who hasn't watched Dexter yet and wants to might do well to skip this post and watch some more Halloween videos.

I'm still on season one (yeah, yeah... lots of catching up to do), and I think it was episode 8 that I was watching (maybe 9) tonight, when we had one of the flashbacks.

As a child, Dexter was injured while playing. He needed a blood transfusion, but he has the rarest of blood types: AB-. The hospital was stymied by the lack of a suitable donor, and only Dexter's foster father was able to identify a blood relative who would have the right blood type.

Two problems:
  1. It's not that hard to find a donor for a recipient with type AB-. Any Rh-negative donor will do, because AB types can also receive A, B, or O types without any problems.
  2. The episode implies that the donor is Dexter's biological father, but if Dexter is type AB-, then his father must be either A- or B-, not AB-, so even if Dexter needs an exact match for some reason, his biological father couldn't be an exact match.
Whew! I've got that bit of geekery off my chest. Back to Halloween videos.

Edit: I suppose Dexter's biological father could be AB-, since he could donate either the A or the B if his wife donated the other one. My bad. Point #1 still stands.

Further Edit: A little research indicates that less than 10% of the population of Florida has Rh-negative blood, so finding a relative might still be fairly important.

Narwhals

This is its own special kind of scary.



Muah ha ha hah! Now it's running through your head, too!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Do you want to know about Rorschach?

Please remember that, while Rorschack is all badass and interesting, he's also insane.


Friday, October 01, 2010

ASL Brain Eating

October has arrived! Let the gratuitous video links begin!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

No... No Way!

Apparently some countries want to negotiate a "cyber peace treaty" that would effectively prevent people from posting internet content that criticizes their government.
Using the term "mass psychologic [sic] brainwashing," the agreement said that the dissemination of information "harmful to the spiritual, moral and cultural spheres of other states" should be considered a "security threat."
Sounds like tyrants want to make it illegal for anyone in another country to point out their tyrannical policies. Technically such a treaty would only bind the government itself, but I suspect the countries pushing this "treaty" (including Russia, China, India, and Brazil) are just trying to get a foot in the door for suppressing all internet criticism.

I do hope our representatives have sense enough to know that our Constitution forbids signing or ratifying such a treaty.

Something that isn't Coq au Vin

I'm in the process of cooking a dish that isn't Coq au Vin, but should vaguely resemble it. I've got chicken breasts cooking in the oven, and I'll be slicing them up. In a small pot I have two cups of red wine (box-o-cabernet), a medium sauteed onion (very coarse chop), some honey, black pepper, and some prepared portbello mushrooms and roasted peppers (Delallo brand from the European Market & Deli, to be specific).

We shall see if this is good to eat...

(time passes)

Not bad at all. Definitely not Coq au Vin, but still pretty good in its own right.

Trust the Corps

I just find this amusing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anomalies

And this is why I think "Ghost Hunters" is bad comedy.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Comment on The New Communism

Sunsara Taylor was scheduled to give a talk to a Humanist association, and her photographer got arrested for taking pictures during a police arrest. That’s a particularly idiotic thing to happen, and I do think the charges should be dropped (although he has apparently been convicted at this point, appeal pending), but that’s not what I’m on about today. In a comment on the arrest, she had the following to say:

“The themes of my talk, which drew on the theoretical framework developed by Bob Avakian in his book, AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, examined the basis for a morality that is rooted neither in the brutality and ignorance of Biblical times nor the narrow-minded individualism and relativism of modern U.S. capitalism. I posed the need for a morality that both reflects and serves the struggle to bring into being a world free of all forms of exploitation and oppression, a communist world, a world where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings.”
How very Star Trek of her. Communism seems to be undergoing some kind of resurgence in popularity among the sort of people who don’t remember what life was like for people in the Soviet Union and its satellite states during the late 20th Century. Somehow, these people missed, forgot, or never learned about the dismal failure of Communism.

You can find the kind of altruism needed to operate a successful commune in a fairly small group of hand-picked people, but when you try to implement Communism on a national scale, it falls apart, and you end up with bread lines, rampant corruption, and people who are willing to risk death to escape from their own country. Communist nations have historically used walls, barbed-wire fences, minefields, and military force to keep their citizens from leaving.

In theory, you could have a government run by altruistic officials and supported by an altruistic population, but there simply aren’t enough altruistic people in reality for that to work. There are some, but not nearly enough. So, maybe you could give power to altruistic officials and have them enforce altruistic behavior from the rest of the population. That kind of power is dangerous, though, if it ever ends up in the hands of the corrupt. Again, see the Soviet Union for an example of what happens in reality when you concentrate power in the hands of a few idealists, no matter how pure their intentions were in the beginning.

Capitalism may not be the kindest and gentlest economic system in the world, but it has proven to be effective, and it allows people with talent to excel and become successful. Around the world, as societies have changed from managed communist economies to free markets, standards of living have improved. I’m not some crazy anarcho-capitalist who thinks the magical market will do everything right, but Capitalism is easily a better system than Communism.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yet another spam letter



Here's hoping that all my friends who are actually at Dragon*Con are having a great time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Terrible Movies

TERRIBLE MOVIES
see more Lol Celebs



But, strangely enough, I watch a lot of bad movies, and I love them anyway.

Not sober, of course.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Food Porn: Assorted Dinners

First up, a little oyster boil that I shared with Nena last week. Witness the aftermath!



The salad is fresh tomatos, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella with some olive oil, spices, and balsamic vinegar. The oysters are steamed in butter, sauteed onions, and Pinot Grigio.

(Yes, I use a screwdriver to open oysters. It's a multi-tasker.)



In another meal, we have a beef kielbasa from the European Market and Deli (in Mt. Juliet, TN) that is very tasty with some onions and peppers.






And finally, just for myself, Brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon, because bacon can make just about anything delicious.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Blogiversary

I passed 100,000 visits this week!

(That is all.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Bleak World of Ray Comfort

Ray came up with a particularly depressing post a little while back.
There are some people who mistakenly think that it is wrong for anyone to respond to the gospel, simply for the reward of Heaven. Their belief is that we should do what's right just because it's right, not because of fear of punishment or promise of reward.
Ray’s opening statement is false. The people he’s talking about say that it’s morally superior to do right just because it’s right instead of doing right just to receive a reward or to avoid a punishment. Of course, restating what his critics said into what he thinks they said is pretty typical for Ray.
However, such idealism is unrealistic. We are sinners with desperately wicked hearts, and we are incapable of such noble motives. [emphasis mine]

However, God has "wired" us to respond to rewards and punishments. From the moment we are born, we have the ability to respond positively to a smile and negatively to a frown. We respond positively to incentives. We work towards a wage, run to win the medal, and climb to reach the highest peak. Again, it's our nature to be motivated by these things.
In one of the places I’ve worked, the chief of security cited a statistic that one person out of three will steal if he thinks he can get away with it. Ray apparently thinks that statistic is too low, and it should be three out of three.

In Ray’s world, no one ever does anything for anyone else without some sort of carrot or stick to motivate them. I’m wondering what I get when I let a car make a turn into my lane on the highway, knowing that I will probably never see that person again, won’t get a reward for letting them in, and won’t receive any sort of punishment if I drive by and leave them to wait. What benefit did I get when I picked up a twenty dollar bill blowing by at a gas station on a windy day, saw who had dropped it, and gave it back when I could have just driven away with no one the wiser?
That's why we have court systems that threaten punishment to lawbreakers. If we violate traffic rules we are punished by a ticket or even imprisonment.
The selfish and antisocial will always be with us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone acts solely out of self-interest all the time.
It is therefore evident that it is legitimate for any sane person to respond negatively to the threat of Hell and positively to God's free gift of eternal life.
As noted, Ray completely missed the point. While it is legitimate for a sane person to modify his or her behavior to avoid punishment or to gain a reward, it is also legitimate -- and more moral -- for someone to behave in a moral manner just because it’s the right thing to do, without expecting some kind of reward for doing it or punishment for not doing it.

Trenchmore

There was, of course, a ball at the Royal University of Meridies. I didn't take video, but Fiona's husband did.



Some of the dancers said I was understating things when I said that Trenchmore is a moderately aerobic dance. The music is a live band, by the way; it's nice to see that becoming a more regular feature.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Food Porn: Tuscan Salad

I discovered this little jewel at a fund raiser lunch at the Second Harvest Food Bank.

My version has:
  • Fresh cucumber
  • Fresh tomatos
  • Multi-grain "baton" bread
  • Vegetable oil (would have used olive oil, but discovered to late that I was out)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, pepper, basil, and oregano

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Improvised Minestrone

Sorry, no pictures, but it was easy to make. I’ll try to remember the camera next time.
  • One quart of beef broth
  • One can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
  • One can of seasoned black beans (drained)
  • One cup of dry lentils
  • About half a box of whole wheat pasta (shells)
  • Half a teaspoon of fish sauce
Bring all that to a boil in a suitable pot or sauce pan, then turn the heat to low and leave to simmer covered for about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Swelter

Since my P90X partner is out of town this weekend, I went for a run this morning. That's rough in 90-degree heat, but I suppose when I end up running a marathon, there won't be any way to control the temperature.

Paks went on the run with me, and she thought it was hot, too. Of course, when we stopped to turn around, I rubbed her fur a bit and pulled out about a sheep's worth of wool. She's a shedding machine.

Going to try to rack some wine tonight.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Wrong Message

I'm one of the people who find Chick tracts to be amusing. The over-the-top fundamentalism is hard to take seriously, but there are apparently people who think these things are good proselytizing tools.

"Charlie's Ants" is a particularly amusing one to me. It's targeted at children, which might explain how it hilariously sends messages that I don't think the author ever intended.

The basic idea in this tract is to use a child's concern for the fate of an anthill as an analogy for God's love for humanity, but Chick does it so badly that he manages to describe God as some kind of incompetent, petulant child. The "I'm trying to SAVE you!" frame is the perfect example. Is Chick really trying to say natural disasters like the Nashville flood, hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti were all the consequences of God throwing a temper tantrum because he couldn't communicate effectively?

And I'm sure that if I asked Jack Chick if there were anything God couldn't do, he would be quick to say that "with God, all things are possible." Yet he's quick to put limits on God when he needs to explain some of God's behavior that doesn't easily fit into his image of God's perfect love.

My religious views aren't mainstream, but I can't see how even a conservative Christian would be comfortable with the way Jack Chick talks about things that God "cannot" do and how the way God chose to act in the New Testament is the "only" way that he could have acted. It strikes me as terribly presumptuous for Jack to place limits on God so casually. He doesn't say that God "won't" allow sin into Heaven, he says that God "can't" allow sin into Heaven, and speaking as someone who makes a living choosing the right words to describe things, there's a huge difference between "can't" and "won't".

Fundamentalists are usually quick to argue that there are no contradictions in the Bible. Maybe if they could see the contradictions in themselves, they'd be more able to understand the problems that many of us have with Biblical literalism.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Yeti" on Syfy

I watched Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon on Syfy on Friday night. I did a blow-by-blow review on my Facebook profile, but I thought I'd share a copy here, as well.

"Yeti" is starting on Syfy. Share my pain! - Friday at 8:00pm

Three mountain climbers look doomed to die. - Friday at 8:01pm

Exploring the "Demon Cave" always has predictable results. - Friday at 8:02pm

Looking forward to it ignoring bullets. - Friday at 8:03pm

Maybe not. Apparently frozen guns are prone to misfire. Who knew? Also, Yeti are carnivorous. - Friday at 8:04pm

Wasn't there a movie already made about a plane crash in the Himalayas? Or some other high, cold mountain range? Minus the Yeti, of course. - Friday at 8:06pm

And several passengers are college football players. And we've already established who the hero will be. - Friday at 8:07pm

A college "bowl game" is being played in Japan? Boy, someone was stretching for a way to get the football team into the Himalayas. Wouldn't they go across the Pacific via Hawaii? - Friday at 8:08pm

Bad weather ahead! - Friday at 8:09pm

You know, pilots usually either change altitude or course to avoid flying right through a storm, don't they? - Friday at 8:09pm

Coach, if the oxygen masks have dropped, it's not just a little bit of turbulence. You've lost cabin pressure. - Friday at 8:11pm

Looks like the fuselage broke off forward of the wings. Most everyone in that section gets to live... for a while. - Friday at 8:13pm

Early prediction: the backup quarterback (apparent hero) gets to live. The first string QB is Yeti nomz. - Friday at 8:14pm

I wonder if they're going to consider cannibalism, of if they'll just skip that part. - Friday at 8:17pm

"We've gotta go!" Where, fool? - Friday at 8:18pm

Lessee... in these conditions, hypothermia would set in in, what? Five minutes? - Friday at 8:19pm

Hmm... star QB may not be a jerk jock. Seems to be leading the rescue effort. Plus, he's got a girlfriend, which increases his survivability. - Friday at 8:20pm

Yes, you can wait where you are, stupid. Use the fuselage for shelter, keep a fire going to stay warm, go through any luggage that's handy for extra layers to wear, etc. - Friday at 8:22pm

Most of the useful stuff was in the tail section. Oops. - Friday at 8:23pm

Two guys are going to try to get the spare radio from the tail section. They will, of course, be eaten by the Yeti. - Friday at 8:25pm

Ooh! There's a professional Himalayan rescue service. - Friday at 8:26pm

Guys going for the radio are not adequately dressed. - Friday at 8:26pm

"Have you found anything we can use to make fire?" Maybe you should have started one from the pieces of burning debris we saw earlier, stupid. - Friday at 8:27pm

And we've identified a jerkass whose death should be particularly karmic. - Friday at 8:28pm

Dude, you're hiking in the Himalayas; put your hood up. Not that you'll live long enough for it to matter. - Friday at 8:29pm

Backup QB found the radio. No response, of course. I'm sure death is imminent. - Friday at 8:29pm

Oh, the guys who went in search of the radio are going to shelter in the Yeti cave. Can't imagine what will happen. - Friday at 8:30pm

Hopefully the one who was making sense will die last. - Friday at 8:31pm

Yeti! - Friday at 8:31pm

Nope... smarter guy died first. Backup QB must get to take the story back to the others. - Friday at 8:32pm

Coach has kicked off (after giving the star QB a pep talk, of course). - Friday at 8:33pm

Aw... QB's girlfriend saw the Yeti, and no one believes her. - Friday at 8:34pm

Of course, despite the clear sky, the rescue chopper can't get all the way to the crash site. The rescuers must hike for a while. - Friday at 8:41pm

Dumbass wants to "hike out of here". - Friday at 8:42pm

"Are we about to vote somebody off?" -- that was a good one. - Friday at 8:43pm

Having injured himself trying to climb out of an second cave opening, backup QB has splinted his own leg to try again. I don't expect him to live, but you've got to give him credit. - Friday at 8:44pm

Oooh... a Chekov's flare gun! (with two flares) - Friday at 8:44pm

And backup QB is out of the cave! - Friday at 8:51pm

Jackass wants to hike out, but he doesn't want to do it by himself... go figure. - Friday at 8:52pm

Ooh! He's gonna do it! He's suggesting cannibalism! - Friday at 8:53pm

QB thinks they should hunt squirrels in the woods, instead. Wonder who'll get eaten by a Yeti trying that. - Friday at 8:54pm

And here comes the Yeti for backup QB! - Friday at 8:54pm

That's an impressively bad costume. - Friday at 8:55pm

Rescuers have gotten close enough to see the plane with binoculars. - Friday at 8:57pm

Almost caught a rabbit! - Friday at 8:58pm

Damn! Cheerleader's deadly with a javelin! Might be another Chekov's gun! - Friday at 8:58pm

Rabbit on a stick! Nommy! - Friday at 8:59pm

Ooh... rescue guy respects the Yeti legend. - Friday at 9:05pm

And the jackass is trying to foment dissent behind the QB's back. - Friday at 9:06pm

Well, the fight finally happened. - Friday at 9:08pm

And there's dissent about cannibalism. - Friday at 9:09pm

Oh, the dramatic decision-making. If only there were military helicopters that could operate in arctic conditions. - Friday at 9:11pm

EDIT: "Didier Delsalle successfully landed a helicopter on the summit of Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Delsalle completed this record breaking task, twice in two day (May 14th and 15th 2005). These flights set the new World Record for the highest altitude take-off. Eurocopter (Eurocopter.com) designed the helicopter."

Uh-oh... they're about to give in and resort to cannibalism... will the Yeti interrupt? This has SO been done before. - Friday at 9:17pm

Dude, don't go for belly meat. - Friday at 9:18pm

Hmm... frying human. "Kinda smells like chicken." Wonder if it will attract the Yeti. - Friday at 9:19pm

Guess not. Now they'll have to live with it. - Friday at 9:19pm

And someone has decided to burn the rest of the bodies so they won't resort to cannibalism again. - Friday at 9:20pm

"There's fossil evidence all over Asia that there was a giant ape here." Yeah, sure there is. - Friday at 9:21pm

Someone or something is approaching in the night. I'm betting on backup QB. - Friday at 9:23pm

I was right. And jackass shot him with the flare gun. - Friday at 9:23pm

And now the Yeti shows up... disappointed that all those human-cicles have been burned. - Friday at 9:24pm

Well, that was a cheap excuse for a special effect. It's like the old Star Trek ship-rocking effect. - Friday at 9:26pm

Rescue team appears to be just close enough to be some sort of help. - Friday at 9:26pm

How many are going to die? One down already. - Friday at 9:27pm

Yeti, of course, prefers especially gruesome kill techniques. - Friday at 9:27pm

Hmm. Astonishing leaper. - Friday at 9:28pm

Flaregun didn't hurt it much. - Friday at 9:28pm

And the cute chick has been carried off. - Friday at 9:28pm

Rescuers have finally arrived. - Friday at 9:30pm

"We're too high up for helicopters" -- wasn't there a helicopter rescue from Mt. Everest last year? - Friday at 9:30pm

Jackass wanted to just leave (of course), but the rescuers are good with going to save hot chick, first. - Friday at 9:32pm

Time to hunt the Yeti! - Friday at 9:37pm

Jackass seems to be going along. - Friday at 9:37pm

Ew! Yeti spooning! - Friday at 9:38pm

Cave located. - Friday at 9:38pm

Stake trap set at cave entrance... might be a plot point. - Friday at 9:40pm

Ooh... the rescue buy brought a handgun... wonder if it will do any good. - Friday at 9:40pm

Sneak, sneak, sneak away from the creepy yeti. - Friday at 9:41pm

And of course the radio wakes it up. - Friday at 9:41pm

Yeti was shot as it fell into the trap... and the shot started a gratuitous avalanche. - Friday at 9:42pm

Safely hid under an overhang, but is the yeti dead? - Friday at 9:43pm

Ah, the yeti is digging out. I was wondering why the jackass was still alive. - Friday at 9:45pm

Hot chick still has the improvised javelin... I foresee an impaled yeti. - Friday at 9:46pm

Jackass has to pee... which will be when he gets killed horribly, no doubt. - Friday at 9:46pm

Oh, jackass split from the party. That's certain death. - Friday at 9:48pm

Rescue chick is about to die. - Friday at 9:49pm

Yeti used jackass as a bullet shield. Nice. - Friday at 9:49pm

Rescuers are both dead. Yeti takes a lot of bullets to kill. - Friday at 9:50pm

Yeti can jump! Jumps so well he should have caught up with them long ago, actually. - Friday at 9:55pm

Looks like javelin time for hot chick. - Friday at 9:56pm

QB charges to save everyone else; attempt to knock it off the cliff is a moderate success... hanging by a thread time. - Friday at 9:56pm

Yo... javelin to make it let go? - Friday at 9:57pm

Oh, better... javelin chained to a rock to make a harpoon... then the rock shoved over the edge. - Friday at 9:58pm

Oh, extra suckage to be backup QB. He survived being shot in the face with a flaregun, only to be left behind and find that there's a second yeti. - Friday at 10:00pm

This concludes our blow-by-blow review of "Yeti". - Friday at 10:01pm

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Iron Man Fridge Logic

Didn't we learn in the first movie that Tony Stark's armored suits are powered by the miniature arc reactor that he wears in his chest to power the gizmo that keeps his heart beating? This would include the second suit he built, the Mark II armor, in particular.

So how was James Rhodes able to operate the Mark II suit in Iron Man 2? If Tony wasn't wearing it, it wouldn't have a power supply.

My geek-fu is still strong.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2

I got to see Iron Man 2 over the weekend, and I was quite pleased. They conveniently avoided the "hero has an extra disadvantage" cliche in this one, which is particularly refreshing, since they already used that one in the first installment. I was also pleased to see that the writers appreciated continuity, as a surprise weapon from the first film was reused in this one, albeit with different results. Also, when this movie's new surprise weapon was only used once, there was a good explanation. Clearly the writing staff had enough geeks to dodge many of my usual criticisms. The armored suits even sustain reasonable amounts of battle damage regardless of who wins.

Performance quality didn't drop in this film, either. Robert Downey Jr. continues to play a character who is an ass on many levels, but likeable all the same. The various people around him are still strained by his selfish eccentricity, and their behavior stays believable.

I wasn't thrilled by the choice of villain when I saw previews for IM2. I'm a bit of a comics buff, and I collected pretty heavily for a while. In the comics, Whiplash is at best a second-tier villain, probably just third. Still, they managed to make him into a threat without straining my sensibilities. I don't want to spoil things by saying how his first encounter with Iron Man went, but I wasn't actually displeased.

So this is definitely a "go see". The writers doing Marvel movies these days seem to be on the ball. They haven't really fumbled since Spiderman 3.

Note: There is an easter egg after the credits, but you have to be a Marvel Comics buff to appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

While the town was flooded...

In case you didn't notice, it rained last weekend in Nashville. It rained a lot. It rained so much that the river crested some sixteen feet above flood stage. I live a bit outside Nashville, and my house fortunately did not flood (and I'm now pretty sure it never will).

There is, however, a low spot in the road to my house. When I got home from the Crown List event (Maximillian won... again) on Sunday, the river was lapping at the edge of the road. Overnight, it overflowed the road to a depth of five feet.

Needless to say, I stayed home Monday. I didn't miss much; the office where I work closed due to threat of the nearby levy failing and all the surrounding roads being flooded. It was still closed today (Wednesday), and I'm not all that sure about tomorrow. At least I was able to work remotely some today.

So, I did get a little bit of cleaning done, and I finally got the opportunity to see Dead Snow. I saw it in Norwegian with English subtitles via Netflix on-demand. That was a fun little zombie movie, although the zombies were a little non-traditional (you could apparently kill them with damage that would kill a living person, which is atypical for zombie flicks). It turned out to be a little unpredictable, which is good. It was also somewhat tongue-in-cheek, which can vary. Campy worked well for Zombieland, while serious worked well for Night of the Living Dead (for which I actually prefer the 1990 remake, but that's as much because of Patricia Tallman as anything). I give it about a three out of four if you have my bizarre taste in movies (I watch Syfy original movies, after all, even if it's mostly to laugh at their badness).

Hopefully the office will be open tomorrow. I'm totally losing track of my days. For a while, I thought today was Sunday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans

Ah, Hollywood, how they love to butcher history and mythology. If you haven’t been bothering to keep up, Hollywood decided to pillage their own vaults for ideas again and came up with a remake of Clash of the Titans, a movie produced in 1981 that tells the story of the ancient Greek hero Perseus… badly. Well, for a simple action-fantasy movie it wasn’t all that bad, but it certainly didn’t strain too hard to follow the mythological story accurately, and the modern remake doesn’t try any harder. In fact, the modern remake makes exactly the same mythological errors as the original, and then adds some more. The movie also has a rather muddled message, so it’s really not all that impressive for anything but its special effects, and even those aren’t exactly ground-breaking.

The spoilers are about to start flowing, so now would be the time turn away if that matters to you.

The original Clash of the Titans, if you don’t already know, involves the goddess Thetis taking offense when Queen Cassiopeia brags that her daughter, Princess Andromeda, is even more lovely than the goddess. As the Greek gods were wont to do, Thetis takes offense and informs the people of Argos that she’s sending the Kraken – the hit-beast of the gods – to destroy Argos, a fate they can avoid by chaining Andromeda out on the beach as a sacrifice to it.

The remake takes divine petulance a step further by having the gods behave so irresponsibly that all of humanity is rebelling against them and destroying their temples – which is a problem, since the gods derive much of their power from human worship. The exception is Hades – the god of the underworld – who has learned to thrive on human fear instead. Seeing the human rebellion as an opportunity to overthrow Zeus, he manipulates the situation for his own benefit. When the insolent people of Argos proclaim the beauty of Andromeda, he announces – in Zeus’s name – that she must be sacrificed to the Kraken or the city will be destroyed. In so doing, he expects the human lack of respect to turn into full-blown hatred (which will deprive Zeus of power) and outright terror (which will increase his own power).

With the plot thus set, the sequence of events of the two movies begins to converge. Perseus goes on a quest to behead the gorgon Medusa so he can use her petrifying gaze to defeat the Kraken. Motives and details vary (and I won’t go into them at length), but the gist is much the same. The main difference is in the muddled message of the remake.

The original didn’t really have a message; it was just a wacky adventure to slay a monster. The sequel tries to introduce a theme revolving around human independence and immortal accountability, which is potentially interesting if you’re following the religion-versus-secularism conflict in modern culture, but the movie can’t seem to make up its mind whether to follow through on that plot and have Perseus succeed purely on his mortal merits or go through a “character arc” in which Perseus learns to accept his godly heritage. In the end, he doesn’t really do either, which makes me wonder why the writers introduced this personal conflict in the first place.

As for the butchering of mythology, the actual myth of Perseus goes something like this:
  • Danae, the mother of Perseus, was the daughter of King Acrisius, not his wife. Acrisius had them sent out to sea to die in an effort to avoid a prophecy that his grandson would eventually kill him (that never works, by the way). Both Perseus and Danae survived the sea journey to end up in Seriphus.
  • Seriphus had its own problems, as the king there – Polydectes – had his lecherous eye on Danae. Perseus was a master c*@#-blocker, though, so Polydectes tricked Perseus into promising to kill Medusa, which he figured would be a sure way to get the youth killed.
  • Seeing his son in a trap, Zeus took steps to make sure Perseus had the means to accomplish the quest. He arranged for him to have a sword and shield (with a mirror-polished inside surface), a pair of winged sandals, a helmet that turned him invisible (provided by Hades, incidentally – see below), and a bag suitable for toting around a severed monster head.
  • Guided by the advice of the Graeae (the oracles with only one eye among the three of them), Perseus found Medusa’s lair and ambushed her in her sleep (sorry, no epic battle, folks).
  • On his way home he happened to see Andromeda chained to the rocks as a sacrifice to the Kraken. The offense that got her there, incidentally, was being reckoned more beautiful than the Nereids, vain sea nymphs who complained to Poseidon when the word got round. Perseus – after extracting a promise from Andromeda's father that he could marry her – intervened to save her. That’s right: the Kraken was just a target of opportunity, not the object of Perseus’s quest.
Other bits of mythological ignorance:
  • Hades was somber, not evil, and he actually liked ruling the underworld. As I recall, he chose the underworld as his domain (he, Zeus, and Poseidon drew lots to see who would get first choice).
  • Drops of Medusa’s blood spilled by Perseus during his post-beheading travels caused poisonous snakes to develop in various parts of the world. Not exactly giant scorpions, but far worse raping of mythology occurs in these movies.
  • Pegasus belongs in the story of Bellerophon, not the story of Perseus.
  • There is no story from Greek mythology that involves “jinn” in any way whatsoever.
Final verdict: It’s fun to watch the pretty pictures, but you might want to turn your brain off when you see the title screen.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gulf Wars XIX Open A&S Performing Arts

The Pregnant Farmer


La Chanson de Roland


The Counting of the Twenty and One

I'm not at all sure why I thought it was "The Counting of the Thirteen and One" when I first captioned it. I need to fix that.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Overdue Gulf Wars XIX Post

Sunday
After staying overnight in Jackson with Shimofuri on Saturday, we caravanned down to the site on Sunday to help set up camp. We arrived in the early afternoon, and I immediately joined in the raising of the kitchen/dining tent. Here I received my first injury of the war. The roof frame is made of fitted pipe sections, and I asked someone to push on the other end of one of the pipes as I was getting it fitted. The push came a bit sooner than I expected and my hand got pinched, so I went through the war with a bandage on the web of my right hand next to the thumb. Fortunately I was up to fencing by Wednesday.

Monday
Monday I found a very nice merchant who provided me with some tape to properly secure the bandage on my hand. That served me most of the day, and I obtained a small roll of tape from the chirurgeons to keep me going through the rest of the war. On top of that, Her Excellency Katherine got me some bactine, more bandages, and more tape. I was being positively doted on, but that suits me very well.

In the early afternoon, I went to the dance hall (Bede Hall) to help teach a dance class. This was simple 15th Century Italian dances: Amoroso, Petits Riens, and Anello. Since the planned teacher was unable to attend the war, Lady Sibyl was teaching, and I happily assisted. It's always nice to have some ringers when you're teaching a dance class.

Following the dance class, I ventured down to the Fort for the Verona Street Brawl. I wasn't up to fighting yet – just trying to hold a rapier hurt my hand – so I volunteered as a marshal. I don't think that brawls were quite as amusing as they were two years ago, when I last attended the war. The attempts to frame the other family were rather hamfisted, and the Governors were shamefully oblivious to the bloodbaths in the streets.

That evening I hosted the Beginners’ Ball. I planned it with lots of common, easy dances. Basically, if you didn't already know the dance, any ringer on the floor could drag you through it with minimal coaching. The list worked out quite well, if I do say so myself, as we worked our way through the dances at a steady pace and had plenty of time for requests before we had to close down the ball.

Tuesday
Early Tuesday afternoon I taught my dance class. This year I taught two variations of the Contrapasso. The standard variation is for a couples, and the Contrapasso Nuovo variation is for a set of three couples. Contrapasso itself is not really very difficult and the students learned it with plenty of time to spare. Contrapasso Nuovo is similar, but there are definitely some tricky maneuvers, and it has l5ess repetition, making it more difficult to remember. Fortunately Lady Ginevra assisted by providing live music; you can ask a musician to play just a particular section of the music, a request that recording just can’t seem to accommodate.

Wednesday
On Wednesday morning,I was up to fighting, and the Green Dragon Inn hosted a Tavern Brawl. Nothing rocks quite like a tavern brawl in an authentic tavern. Don Mateo organized several different scenarios, some involving just staying alive, others requiring an effort to loot the place. Some of the survival scenarios were real meat grinders.

In the afternoon, I competed in the Everyman Tourney. I didn't make it past my first round robin group, but it was a near thing. Three of us tied for second place, and we had to fight another mini round robin to see which two would progress. I had some really good fights in this tourney.

Thursday
Thursday morning was the Ladies of the Rose Rapier Tournament, and I again fought on behalf of Duchess Katrina. I don’t exactly have a stunning track record at the Rose tourney, but it’s always a fun time. The tourney had 110 entrants this year, which is a new record. I drew Don Iago for my first bout, and I actually dispatched him with surprising speed. I’m thinking of adding a white ribbon to my outfit every time I win a tournament match with a Don, now.

My second draw was Warder Sibyl Sevenoke, and I couldn’t have asked for a better second draw. Make no mistake: Sibyl is better than me at this game, but that makes the fight all the more fun. I am especially pleased by the fact that when she disabled my left hand with a cut to my thumb, she did not put down her own dagger; I like for my opponent to continue to treat me as a threat even after scoring a significant blow. She got my other arm a bit later, putting me out of the fight in a way that Joseph Swetnam – the historical fencing master I study – would definitely have appreciated (i.e., no one “died”).

I drew Lord Silvani for my final fight, and he’s definitely been keeping in better practice than I, too. I managed to stretch it out for a while, though, before being legged and then finally eliminated.

The schedulers moved the Rapier Field Battle up from Saturday to Thursday afternoon this year, and I turned out for it. We were fighting with Trimaris this year, and the first battle of the two-out-of-three contest was something of a cluster-fail. Meridies was positioned at the left end of the Trimarin line, facing the Hellhounds from Northshield. When the battle started, our front line ran out to make contact with the enemy while the rear ranks (consisting of some people who don’t move very fast due to knee troubles and such) closed at a slower pace. It’s not a good idea to take on the Hellhounds piecemeal; each little unit gets cut to shreds as it arrives. It would have been better to all march up at an even pace and make contact at full strength. Yes, I died pretty quick in that battle.

I’m not sure what the plan was in the second battle. After changing sides of the field, Meridies was on the right end of the Trimarin line, next to the Atlantians. When the battle started, the Atlantians quickly moved out and crossed in front of us to engage the Hellhounds while we looked for a place to reinforce. Our commander pointed out a thin spot for us to fill and I stepped into place to engage some Trimarins and Midrealmers. I soon noticed that our line was still pretty thin to the right of me; then it was also thin to the left of me; then I realized I was on my own against about six opponents. Well, I managed to keep them busy for a while and I got three of them, so I think I did my part pretty well in the second battle, but it was still an overall loss.

With the war point settled, round three was a “friendship battle” which my side won (due in no small part to the Hellhounds defecting to our side, I suspect).

Friday
Friday morning I took my camcorder down to Bede Hall, where the open A&S competition was taking place. I recorded the performing arts entries, and one of them is already posted to YouTube. Hopefully I'll get the others up shortly.

Later in the day there was a Ribbon Tourney, and I assisted as a marshal, as I was saving my energy for the Ravine Battle.

Like the Field Battle, the Ravine Battle was pretty lop-sided. I also couldn't seem to get any cooperation from my allies. On the way to the line, I'd ask the fighters on either side of me if they would take shots if I blocked blades, but when I knocked blades down, the shots didn't materialize. I eventually gave up on that and decided to just cause a bit of havoc, and I actually did get into the enemy backfield once, killing several of their fighters in the process. Moments like that make the whole tiresome business worth while.

Saturday
Rain was threatening Saturday, and I really didn't want to pack a wet tent, so I broke camp early in the day, did some final shopping, and for the first time at Gulf Wars, I actually left site early.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gulf Wars XIX

Yes, I did return from Gulf Wars... I am being slack about posting. Please be patient.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Unscientific Idiocy

Ray Comfort responded to a comment from one of his critical readers, and the response is just amazingly dumb. The original comment was...
Ray you don't know the first thing about science. You're the guy who thought falling violated Gravity.
And Ray's response...
Physics.about.com says: "Newton's law of gravity defines the attractive force between all objects that possess mass. Understanding the law of gravity, one of the fundamental forces of physics, offers profound insights into the way our universe functions." So, I’m not the only one who believes that there is such a thing as "the law of gravity," and if it's a law, it can be violated.

If you hit the ground at 120 mph from 1,000 feet, you will suffer the consequences of violating what physics.about.com calls the law of gravity. If you will remember the context in which I called gravity a law--I said that if you break the law of gravity, you will suffer the consequences...."
I've discussed scientific laws and theories before, and I think I was actually a little off the mark then. I've since been told that a "law" describes a mathematical relationship. The "Law of Gravity" is a mathematical formula that you can use to calculate exactly how quickly two massive objects will accelerate toward each other. The "Theory of Gravity" is an effort explain how and why that acceleration occurs. There is no denying that acceleration due to gravity occurs, but physicists are still working out the mechanism. Similarly, the Theory of Evolution is an effort to explain the how and why of the process of evolution. That evolution occurs is only doubted by science denialists like Ray Comfort.

Make no mistake, though. You can not violate the law of gravity. If you fall from 1,000 feet, you will not suffer the consequences of violating the law of gravity: you will suffer the consequences of obeying the law of gravity.

Ray goes on to try to turn it into a sort of parable, but it's a parable built on a false premise, so it falls flat.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Black Gryphon 2010

Just a few pictures from the event. Many wonderful classes were enjoyed by all, I think.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Cats Play With Their Food?

Why yes... yes... they do.


For those who never heard the tale, we got Mauser to dispose of mice in the barn. She is a cat picked specifically to be "a hunter who isn't too social with people."

When first released in the barn, she immediately ran off, and we wondered if we'd ever see her again. She didn't seem to be eating cat food left for her at the barn, but the mouse population did seem to be in decline. We later decided she was using it as bait.

Eventually she reappeared when some of our friends were over helping us build a bonfire. Since then, she's been a surprisingly social cat. She doesn't like to be picked up, but she will run in front of you and lay down for you to rub her belly.

And she's death on a stick to field rats, rabbits, birds, lizards, and just about anything else she can catch.

Incidentally, this is my first real success at video editing. Go me.