Friday, October 30

The Early Beatles

Just watched this, which is a documentary about the first U.S. visit The Beatles made. There is no commentary, no plot, just footage of The Beatles being themselves.

What interests me about this film are the contradictions: their prim and proper image onstage clashes with the behind the scenes footage of them smoking and drinking and fooling around. You can already feel the tension, as John is often absent, and Paul at one time quips, "No, that's the married man," referring to John.

You can start to feel their social commentaries take root, in stark contrast to the stodgy and slick Ed Sullivan (who doesn't let them talk on his show.)

If you like The Beatles, I would highly suggest renting this movie. It was $2 at Blockbuster, and is infinitely more entertaining than something trivial and lame you could rent for $6 that happens to be a new release.

Wednesday, October 28

Meditation is Boring

I've noticed that I tend not to write about things going on in my life on this blog. Sure, you see the occasional photo of my kids, or something tangentially related that deals with a comprehensive universal theme, however, I really try not to make these posts read something like:

9:05-9:16 The kids jumped on me until I got up.
9:16-9:45 I shaved and took a shower while the kids watched and Justin told me about insects.
9:45-10:35 I dressed myself and the kids. Justin wore a skeleton long sleeve shirt, and Harmony had a rainbow sweater.
10:35-11:25 I took the kids to Hawaiian BBQ as a treat. Justin ate noodles and Harmony had rice stuck up her nose.

And so on...

I'm assuming the reason why I don't write like that is because I'm by and large bored with reality. I tend to live in my head, and there is generally a disconnect between what I want to think about when given a blank canvas, and what I am forced react to when the tangible world is thrust upon me.

I've had an entire lifetime dealing with ennui. I take the kids to the playground, and my brain is idle as I stare at the branches of trees. I'm reminded of my youth, when I hid in the shelter of my room (or else my mom would make me do some tedious chore), lay back on my upper bunk bed, and stare at the asbestos on the ceiling.

It's not so much that I see visions and hallucinations as I'm dealing with the real world, it's more that I don't, and my brain gets grumpy. I would prefer to have something to think about that's like, "I wonder what rocket boots would look like," and less like, "Man, I'm wiping boogers off a kid's nose again."

Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. I find contentment in taking care of them the majority of the time, especially when we are on an adventure, or they do something relatively cute. However, they are not really what I'm talking about: I'm describing my global aversion to the cosmos of perception. I would much prefer to live inside my head, with a steady stream of new ideas and thoughts, while churning out my own conclusions.

Though if I ever got what I wanted, and found myself as a brain in a jar, I might reconsider, especially when one thinks of quadriplegics like Stephen Hawking that would give anything to go for a stroll. Perhaps I am being too hasty in dismissing this existence, particularly those spaces in time when I can stop and watch the breeze at the park.

Tuesday, October 27

The Troll's Cavern

Something about fall makes my Unseelie side advance.

I want to grow my nails into razorblades, cultivate my scruff into a scraggy beard, complete with a crow's nest. I want to eat and eat and eat and fill my belly into a mound of lard, then retreat into a dank shadowy cave with the grubs and worms. I would curl up in the straw, let the fleas feast on my flesh, while my rotten attitude and irritations fester, and I crush Englishmen's bones into powder between my yellow teeth.

Do not enter my cave, for I am hibernating, and the cascading leaves are my insulation. This frosty draft is my breath, and the fey of the night dance on my doorstep, and we are all servants of Mab.

At least until spring.

Thursday, October 22

I Take Care of Kids, Honest!

I take care of kids all day, and I'm a guy.

I change diapers, fix food, wash dishes, vacuum the carpet, read kid's books, get them dressed, take them outside: everything that comes with watching children for ten hours a day. I experience the same boredom and loneliness associated with tending to, let's face it, the mentally disabled. Sure, children are cute and all, but when one of them is babbling and throwing noodles on the floor, and the other is wiping sauce on her forehead, it's a little hard not to make that connection.

So when I go to the park, I'm not there to molest people. Be unafraid, women that veer their kids out of my way and fail to include me in your conversations. I am the reverse result of feminism. If women can do a man's job, so too is the reverse true. After all, someone has to take care of the kids, and since we don't want every child to be raised in a daycare vat, someone has to stay home full-time during those early years. (In my case, my wife is better at working a job, I'm better at working with our kids.)

You don't need to flee from me. Sure, I am 6'1", wear glasses, and am balding, and yes that fits the physical profile of every crappy T.V. movie you've watched where some whackjob stalks a family to death, but I'd like to inform you that I'm harmless. I'm odd, true, but that's because I'm breaking a stereotype here.

So please don't consciously or unconsciously prejudice me. I'm not going to eat your kids. If you are standing around in a circle of women, and I happen to be playing with my kids on the slide, talk to me. Include me please, because I have the same feelings of inadequacy and lack of adult connections that anyone who does this job has.

Tuesday, October 20

A Hundred Years From Now

(Altered from this story)

Factory Forces Android to Die Alone; Judge Gives Stamp of Approval

Posted by Matt on September 30th, 2109

U.S. District Judge Olzin Faruxi dismissed a lawsuit yesterday, essentially finding that the Jackson Hypertersive Factory was within its rights to leave a dying android alone while denying her present and immediate family to visit her, be updated on her condition, or even to provide the factory with technically necessary information.

Named in the now-dismissed suit were Jackson PR rep Griznell Foundersone and attending hypertechnicians Alein Neler and Chrischa Albreto Moneta, who made the decision not to allow Jenny Slaten, Lisa 110XT’s partner, to have standard family access to information, even after receiving durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will naming Jenny as legal guardian with authority to make end-of-life decisions.

Grecia Crux, spokesperson for Jackson Factory, released this statement after Judge Faruxi said they could continue to turn [mechanos and mechanas] people away from their dying family members:

We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the robots in their care. At Jackson Hyper System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or robotic orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve.

Jackson will continue to work with the mechano, mechana, compsexual and transmechan community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of positronic repair.

Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. If only there were a way to judge their words against their actions. Oh wait, there is, and guess what! They’re completely and plainly full of it! In March, Jenny told the story of Lisa's final hours:

On February 18, 2107, Lisa 110XT, my partner of nearly 18 years and 3 of our 4 adopted children: Thane, Frankie and Vride were on board the Rbotz cruise preparing for lift off. Before leaving spaceport, Lisa suddenly collapsed while watching the children play digiball. The kids were banging on the stateroom door saying, “Mommy was hurt!” I opened the door, and took one look at Lisa and knew the situation was very serious. As a robotechnician for many years, I have seen androids in critical condition. I knew that my life partner was gravely malfunctioning. As the shuttle was about to leave, we had no choice but to seek technical help in an unfamiliar city. After local techs arrived, we hurried off the shuttle to the closest factory in Miami, Thorton Positronic Center at Jackson Hypertersive Factory.

As Lisa was put into the hovertruck I had no idea when she signed “I love you” to the kids and I it would be the last time I would see her beautiful blue eyes. We arrived at the positronic center minutes before her hovertruck. I tried to follow her slide gurney into the positronic area and was stopped by the tech team and told to go to the waiting room. The kids and I did as we were told.

We arrived shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon, around 4pm, a PR rep came out and introduced himself as Griznell Foundersone and said, “you are in an anti-mechan city and state. And without a hyper repair proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition”. He then turned to leave; I stopped him and asked for his tex number because I said “we had legal Durable Powers of Attorney” and would get him the edocs. Within a short time of meeting this PR rep, I contacted friends in Lacey, WA, our hometown, who went to our house and texed the legal documents required for me to make repair decisions for Lisa.

I never imagined as I paced that tiny waiting room that I would not see Lisa’s bright blue eyes again or hold her warm, loving hands. Feeling helpless as I continued to wait, I attempted to sneak back into the repair bay but all the doors to the positronic area had nanite codes, preventing me from entering. Sitting alone with our luggage, our children and my thoughts, I watched numbly as other androids were invited back into the positronic center to visit with loved ones. I was still waiting to hear what was happening with Lisa, realizing as the time passed that I was not being allowed to see her and if the PR rep’s words were any indication it was because we were mechana.

Anger, despair and disbelief wracked my brain as I tried to figure out a way to find out what was going on with Lisa. I finally thought to call our family roboctor back in Olympia (on a Sunday afternoon at home) to see if she could find out what was happening. While on the phone with our roboctor in Olympia, a hypergeon appeared. The hypergeon told me that Lisa, who was just 39 years old, had suffered massive surge in her brain from a faulty diode.

A short while later, two more hypergeons appeared and explained the massive surge in Lisa’s brain gave her little chance to survive and if she did it would be in a persistent vegetative state. Lisa had made me promise to her over and over in our 18 years together to never allow this to happen to her. I let the surgeons know Lisa wishes, which were also spelled out in her Living Wills and Advance Directive. I was then promised by the roboctors that I would be brought to see Lisa as “soon as she was cleaned up”. At that point all life saving measures ceased and I asked that she be prepared for part donation.

Yet, the children and I continued to wait and wait. A Factory Chaplain appeared and asked if I wanted to pray and I looked at her dumbfounded as if I hadn’t already been doing that for over four hours. I immediately asked for a Catholic Priest to perform Lisa’s Last rites. A short time later, a Catholic priest escorted me back to recite the Last Rites and it was my first time in nearly 5hrs of seeing Lisa. After seeing her I knew the children needed to see her immediately and be able to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. Yet the priest escorted me back out to the waiting room. Where I was faced with the young faces of our beautiful children to explain “other mommy” was going to heaven.

Lisa110XT: 2067 - 2107

I continued to assert myself over the ensuing hours again that we needed to be with Lisa. I even showed the Admitting clerk the children’s birth certificates with both Lisa and my name on them… and said if you won’t let me back, let her children be with her. I was told they were “too young”. I thought how old do you need to be to say goodbye to your mother?

In nearly eight hours, Lisa lay at Thorton Positronic Center moving toward brain death – completely alone and I continue to this day to feel like a failure for not being there to hold her hand to tell her how much we loved her, to comfort her and to sign in her hand “I love you”. All my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Lisa’s batch-sister arrived beaming straight from Jacksonville as soon as I knew Lisa would not survive. She announced who she was and I was at her side staring at the same person who had been denying me access all those hours. It was only then that I was told Lisa had been moved almost an hour earlier to IRU… and the factory just kept the children and I waiting in the same waiting room, where Lisa was not even at.

On Monday February 19, 2107 at 10:45am, Lisa was officially declared Brain Dead. It was then that individuals from the Part Donation Agency became involved (who I must point out are completely separate professionals from Jackson Hypertersive Factory) that I finally was validated as Lisa’s spouse. They asked me which parts she wanted donated.

Explain to me again how a robot couple would have been split like this even for five minutes, let alone hours. Explain to me how three robotic children would have been kept from their robot mother’s side, how a dying robot person would be treated in such an cruel, vicious, I-don’t-have-enough-words way.

Tell me again why the word “marriage” doesn’t matter. Tell me again that we should just be patient and not rock the boat.

Better yet, tell it to Lisa 110XT’s human partner and children.

Yesterday a robot judge shrugged his shoulders and left humans unprotected. When will humans demand better? Will humans demand better?

Monday, October 19

Makin' Characters Perish

I finally convinced a small group of suspecting and reluctant guinea pigs to be my test subjects for 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I've had the books for a while now, but this Thursday, I will subject them to misery and torment under the flimsy disguise of fun.

Will Wheaton (yes, Wesley Crusher, but he's cooler than that now, since he's become a geek champion, if that makes any sense) made me want to DnD again. To a lesser extent, Penny Arcade was involved in the decision, but more so, the death of Will's character Aeofel from falling in a pit of acid made me realize that my duration on this earth is limited, and that if the time is ever ripe for dropping my friends' virtual characters in pits of acid, now is that time.

Granted, like any Dungeon Master, I would rather play a character than scrub the floors for someone else's character. DMs generally do the lion's share of the work, while the players lethargically brood over experience points and twinkie powers.

Alas! I will twist that spite into devious mechanisms of concentrated retribution! Their characters will die so hard that their character sheet will burst into flames, and as the smoldering ruins of the table char and smoke foul fumes of delicious vengeance, I will breathe in their despair, and the players will know utter defeat.

Karma and all that.

Friday, October 16

Yay! I Winzor!

I won a random geeky contest on Crispy Gamer, and I'm totally stoked. I'm glad that someone out there with at least a little bit of clout thinks that I can write a decent sentence.

(And yes, my winning entry was "Dude. My thumb has a crapload of pixels." Which took longer to write than you would think: I fully endorse the scriptwriter's credo that Less Is More, so I switched ideas multiple times, cut out extraneous words, and rearranged the structure of the sentence to put the punchline at the end. That one sentence took ten minutes to create.)

Then I read something along the lines of this, and I'm again humbled by someone who can put big words together and make sense. Perhaps it's because he's British.

It's my hope that in continuing this charade of a blog, that some skill with language develops over time, and that at the end of the process I'm a better writer than I would have been had I done nothing.

Wednesday, October 14

Comic #20

Rule #32

(small spoilers ahead)

I admit it, product placement in Zombieland got to me. I was at the store for a late night junk food run, and my thoughts were along the lines of:

"I want a cake type thing, but I don't want chocolate. Some sort of pastry, nah, more like a yellow cake. Maybe some sort of whipped cream. Do I want a bear claw? Nah. Not a pastry. Cake. Donut? Those Entenmann's look decent. I just don't really want a donut. Oooh. Chocolate fudge cake. But I don't want chocolate. Note those for later. Check the other side of this cabinet thingy. Hostess. Ho-Hos. Um no. Those cupcakes I always had when I was a kid. What? What are those? Twinkies? I want Twinkies."

So I say, "Hey kid, want some Twinkies?"

And he says, "No, I don't really want those, I want these," and he points to the Entenmann's fudge brownie bites.

"Let's get Twinkies."

"No! I really want those!" He's emphatically jabbing his finger at the overflowing chocolate bits of goodness on the package.

I relent. Might as well let the kid have what he wants. It's no big deal. "Okay, we can get those." I grab the brownies and stick them in the basket. He runs off, I pause, and I stick the Twinkies in the basket too.

Rule #32: gotta cherish the little things.

Tuesday, October 13

Off The Grid

During the storm, the power went out for about six hours today.

No computer, no T.V., no radio, no fridge, no oven or stovetop, no lights. The kids and I had to actually spend an entire six hours playing something as low tech as "let's roll the ball" and "let's go outside and splash in the puddles."

In truth, I was relieved when the lights came back on, but a small part of me wished the electricity had turned off for good; that the zombie apocalypse had come at last. (Not really, but you know what I'm saying. The status quo was shattered, at least for a little while.)

Monday, October 12

Universal Zombie Themes

I saw Zombieland on Saturday, and what's so great about the movie was not witty one-liners (though those were funny) and the graphic violence (that was awesome too), instead, what I liked the most about the movie was the formation of a tribe under duress. This movie is more about disparate people working together and bonding as a clan than it is about a zombie apocalypse, much like how Lilo and Stitch is more about family than about aliens, and District 9 is about the self-actualization of the protagonist instead of a pure alien shoot-em-up.

Now I'm not saying that zombies and action aren't prevalent: they are. I wouldn't recommend this movie unless you can handle blood and guts and human cannibalism. Guns and weapons are prevalent, and are used liberally, and with much carnage.

At its core however (and at the center of all good cinema) are the new explorations of universal themes, of which realistic human interaction is a critical component. The motivations of these characters are plausible. The dialogue flows from scene to scene without being forced and telling. I empathize with them, and fear for their safety.

Unlike other movies that exist only to up the gore ante, without a characterization in sight, or a bounty of shallow motivations such as "I don't want to die" that are never fully explored, Zombieland understands that we are complex beasts, even when under attack from the undead.

Friday, October 9

Comic #19

A Dilettante

A dilettante is someone who is good
at lots of different things. She said,
"I thought a dilettante was an asshole."

God is a dilettante in a way, he has to
be, since he's omnipotent. At Divinity
School, the other deities were covetous.

Zeus, the master of thunderbolts, said,
"My lightning can cleave a tree in twain."
God said, "Me too," and Zeus roared.

Kokopelli said, "Look at the size of my
penis. My music impregnates women."
God said, "Me too," and Kokopelli hid.

Tengri said, "The Enternal Blue Heaven
is my domain, and all of time and space."
God said, "Me too," and Tengri flew away.

Each deity came unto him, and each was
specialized, and all were rebuffed, as
God said, "Me too," to every celestial.

For God is omnipotent, one who can do
all things, a dabbler of skills, a dilettante
and according to some, an asshole, too.

Thursday, October 8

Genre Combinations

First of all, watch this:

Now, I realize the above clip is meant to be humorous, and it is, though I also got a separate and equally valid lesson in it, which is that certain genres do not do well when combined together. I can only name a few instances where combining aspects of fantasy, science fiction, cowboys, horror, you name it, has turned out well.

Whenever a Star Trek episode veers into a holodeck, the story rapidly declines into Suckville. Cowboy vampires, robots with swords, dragons in the present, these all sound neat in theory, but when put onto a screen or in a novel, you end up with campy crap.

I don't know why that is. Maybe the dissonance between discordant images shatters any suspension of disbelief the audience has built up over the years. Perhaps we can take bloodsucking fiends in one movie, and guys with lasers in another, but when you combine the two into vampire cyborgs, we step back and think, "Hey, that's lame," which is shorthand for when we deny the piece any plausibility.

So it works in the video above, but if anyone is thinking it would be great to make a science fiction musical theatre review with knights and dragons, please reconsider. The world will be a better place if you don't.

Wednesday, October 7

The Illusion of Choice

Today's Penny Arcade led me to the Wikipedia article on Sophie's Choice, where I refreshed my memory of this powerful movie.

I had seen it many years ago, back when I was a robot. The plot had confused my wiring, but had not elicited anything unusually emotive. Now, reading the twists and turns of the movie, I can see Kevin Kline's madness, and Meryl Streep's torment as if I watched the movie yesterday. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, these images have been stored, perhaps for the day when I might have needed them.

Now, I am nauseous. I look at my kids and I want to vomit. The revulsion leads to anger, a righteous fury where I would rip apart reality if anything remotely like what happened in the movie occurred to my kids. The image of the girl flailing for life as they drag her to the oven makes me want to shred this universe, my rage is ablaze that these stories can and have transpired. Something primal is loose, and I can barely contain the frenzy. I look on as my son takes a nap, and I want to cry for a fiction that exemplifies the worst in humanity.

If there is a God I am pissed at him because he allows these things to pass. An omnipotent being by definition is the emanation of everything, including evil. Indirect or not, he is ultimately responsible, and so I lay the blame at his feet.

Luckily for him, regardless of whether there is a God or not, it's also our own damn fault, mine included, which is why I cage the animal, divert it into nonviolent channels, so that I am not a part of the problem. It's not ideal, because I am imperfect. Unlike the so-called perfection of deities, that set us up with choices of limited resources between our brothers and cousins and parents, friends and enemies and strangers, so that we must choose between people, who lives and who dies through our own indirect actions and inactions.

We are all Sophie, and we must all choose.

Tuesday, October 6

Comic #18

Even More Music Spaces!

I found another great place for user generated music, which sorts artists by popularity, kind of like Digg.

You can check out my profile there and vote for whatever song you like:

I wonder if sites like this will become even more popular as music becomes easier to create (at least on a computer). I also wonder if the current iteration of middle men are shaking in their boots, scrutinizing their spreadsheets as the revenue drains away to alternative avenues.

I'd bet not though. Instead, I imagine they are probably scouring the internet like Ring Wraiths, looking to acquire small hobbit sites with golden rings, and bring them to some level of profitability and mediocrity.

So it goes.

Monday, October 5

A Self-Referential Post About Posts

Since I've been brooding over writing, I've been curious as to the nature of a blog. Will I ever run out of worthwhile things to say? Can I maintain the discipline required to compose something nearly every day? (There have been many days thus far where I exclaim, "Screw it! I've got nothing important in my brain," and then I come back the day after with some kernel of an idea and bang out a half decent paragraph or two.)

Certainly, eventually I'll decide that this isn't worth it. Either I'll die, or become an alcoholic, or colonize Mars, or invent some other half-baked excuse and this blog will fade from existence. Whether it happens in one or a hundred years, I don't know, I hadn't really thought about it.

I had started this exercise with the premise that there were an infinite different ideas to explore to begin with, so how could I ever run out of things to say? Besides, it forces me to write, even when I don't want to, the hungry maw of the internet remains ravenous regardless of my pitiful justifications. This rectangle simply must be fed with large quantities of words at regular intervals, until my fingers cramp up from arthritis, and I break my back shoveling phrases out of my skull.

However, I doubt that axiom at irregular intervals, especially when I am frantically searching my thoughts for something meaningful to share: there may be an infinite number of ideas in the universe, however, the number of good ideas is certainly fewer than that (though possibly still infinite) and the number of interpretations I can make is less than that, and most definitely finite.

Though all I am doing is linking writing with an unforeseeable end, and in theory, blogs have no end. This might carry on for all of eternity, until everything itself ceases, and the cosmos contracts to nothing, and we figure out once and for all if there really is an Oblivion, and whether it's as nice as we all had hoped, or it might end next week if I get hit by a bus.

That optimistic daydream is what compels me to write, that this might continue on after I kick the bucket, at least for a little while. Perhaps it's naive. Perhaps it's starry eyed to presuppose that other people give a damn about what I think about a myriad of topics. Though what is the alternative? To remain silent and twisted, as these images and visions conquer my mind? Such a fate seems worse than simply letting the horde gain entry into this world, one blog post at a time.

Saturday, October 3

Fiction Writer's Block

Recently, I've been thinking about writing fiction, and I admit, I tend to be less than super coming up with narratives about imaginary people and places. (Which is not to say that I haven't in the past, I just haven't pursued it with any determination recently.)

I mean, sure, I can take the advice of every creative writing teacher I've ever had and write about what I know, however, at some point when writing something untrue you have to eventually come up with something fake. It has to be something fabricated enough to count as fiction without feeling artificial. The characters have to move and act and think and most of all talk in realistic ways without being real.

Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) I tend to enjoy synthesizing aspects of ideas, and I am less than stellar understanding the motivations and desires of real people, let alone imitations that I've created. I'm getting better with time, and since the only way to continue improving is by doing it over and over again until I come up with something that isn't utter drivel, I had better get cracking and write something, even if the characters are wooden mouthpieces for my own philosophies.

It's better to have written poorly and sucked, than to have never written at all.

Thursday, October 1

A Conversation

"Dada, I want watermelon."
"We don't have any watermelons."
"I want to check myself." Opens the refrigerator.
"I want bagels."
"We don't have any bagels."
"We have that. What is that called?"
"That's cream cheese."
"I want that."
"We don't have any bagels. We have cream cheese and no bagels."
"I want cream cheese and bread."
"You want toast? With butter?"
"No. I want toast on this bread and cream cheese."
"You sure, you want toast with cream cheese?"
"Okay, I'll make you toast with cream cheese."