Creative Commons License
This work by Matthew Kagle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Roddenberry's Discarded Star Trek Pilot

I was only writing this blog to try and learn humor writing.  Humor's hard for me as I'm cranky while writing.  Blogs are passé, so I never gathered a huge following.  I did, however, gather a few seriously avid fans.

Seriously avid.  I had no idea.

A few months ago, I posted a piece I received from an anonymous whose email is "Hellz_Housekeeper." It was a synopsis of a proposed sequel to Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog.  The email said I could do whatever I wanted with it.  That's all it said.  I tried emailing back, but heard nothing.

I was going to toss it (I had figured it was fake) but it's hard to come up with new material every week, so I threw it up here.  I'd kinda hoped I'd get a cease and desist letter from Mutant Enemy; it'd certainly boost my readership.  Sadly, I got no response.  Either what I got from Hell's Housekeeper was just fan fiction, or I didn't rate a response from Whedon.

I had forgotten about the incident until I was contacted by H_H again.  If met her at the Gilroy Starbucks, she'd give me something she'd taken from the Barrett house.  It took me a while to figure out what she meant by "Barrett house" (also which Starbucks, there are three near Gilroy).

Barrett meant Majel Barrett.  Majel Barrett was married to Gene Roddenberry.  Star Trek's Gene Roddenberry.
She also got to flirt with Spock
My reaction was immediate: I refused to post anything stolen.  Well, actually, my first reaction was to ask if we could meet somewhere closer.  Then I asked why she contacted me and not a news organization.  But then I told her I refused to post anything stolen.

She told me she didn't have a car, so had to meet in Gilroy, that she read my blog religiously (because she has good taste), and that she'd taken the script from Ms. Barrett's trash (so it wasn't technically stealing).

So I met her.  I've agreed not to mention her appearance or any other personal information that might lead the Bavarian Illuminati back to her.  Yes, you read that right, she's suffering a bit from clinical paranoia, or maybe she spends too much time online.  Anyway, for the price of a nonfat vanilla latte, she let me read this:

"Into the Beyond."  Oddly, he didn't hole punch or bind it.

It's a hand-typed manuscript from Roddenberry himself.  Look at the date.  February, 1965.  If you're not familiar with the original Star Trek, Roddenberry made two pilots.  The first one was filmed in late 1964 (called "The Cage") and was rejected.  They retooled the series with a new captain and created a second pilot in June of 1965 called "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which more people are familiar with.
Not so familiar with the original velour shirts.
This draft comes between those two pilots and varies significantly from the final pilot script.  Roddenberry was trying to be more advanced in his portrayals of technology, and Lucille Ball asked him to scale them back for the final draft.

H_H let me take a few pictures of script pages.  I think her hope is to generate enough interest to get a buyer for the whole script.  I'd like to post what I have, but I'm conflicted.  Is it unethical?  What do you think?  I'll go with the majority of what people think and post it next week if people want me to.

Note: I just realized this week is the 50th anniversary of the shooting of the first Star Trek pilot.  Now I'm more inclined to post it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Virgin Galactic and the 2014 Election

Virgin Galactic is a company dedicated to taking people into space.

Amidst all the furor of the last election, I went to see a movie called Nightcrawler.  It's a rough, thrilling, depressing-as-hell movie about a psychopath who films accidents and crimes for local television news.  

While he's trying to choose what to shoot, he gets this advice from Nina (Rene Russo):
We find our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs.  What that means is a victim, or victims, preferably well off and white, injured at the hands of the poor or minority.
Because, of course, we only care when someone rich is harmed by the poor.

Virgin Galactic is a company dedicated to taking rich people into space.

Amidst all the furor of the last election, I read an article about the SS Eastland.  After the Titanic disaster, ships were required to have life rafts for all passengers.  Unfortunately the Eastland was already top heavy.  One day, as the passengers were boarding, it tipped over.  844 people drowned in minutes.

Why do we hear about the Titanic and not the Eastland?  The Eastland passengers were entirely poor, working-class families.

Virgin Galactic is a company dedicated to taking rich people into space for six minutes.

Amidst all the furor of the last election, Virgin Galactic's space ship crashed.  One pilot was killed, another seriously injured.

Virgin Galactic has a brilliant business plan.  For a quarter of a million dollars, you can fly into space.  For about six minutes, you're weightless.  Then, you come back down again.  Think about that for a moment.  Virgin Galactic believes they can make money selling six minutes of weightlessness for a quarter of a million dollars.

And they're right.  Even with a recent test disaster, even without flights currently ongoing, over 700 people have signed up to go.  700.  Do the math.

Virgin Galactic is symptomatic of what's wrong with the world.

In the aftermath of the last election, I sit at a Starbucks, drink my overpriced "coffee" and try to work out what happened.  Four billion dollars were spent and the senate changed hands.  We were all expecting it, of course.  It happens to every modern president in their second term.  However, it makes me wonder why people voted that way when, as I see things, the country was doing so well.

Why would we elect "the party of the rich?"

The best answer I can come up with is we worship the rich. 

The rich are rich because they deserve it.
The rich are rich because God loves them more.
The rich are kind.  The rich deserve tax breaks.  The rich deserve the best healthcare.  The rich deserve the best toys and food.
When the rich die, the nation grieves. 

When the poor die, they are mourned by their families.  Some die alone, piled into unmarked graves, their lives unwritten, not even a footnote in history to mark their passing.

And that is a problem I don't know how to fix.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Common Parlance: Nightmare Trailer Syndrome

I haven't defined a new term in a long time.
The Pumpkin King is insane.  For years, he's been making Halloween truly scary.  Gone are the costumes, the candy, the parties.  Halloween is now a festival of death, darkness, and fear.  Parents and children cower in their homes as monsters roam the streets at night. 
But it's not enough.  The King wants more.  He's going to destroy the other holidays, starting with Christmas.  With the help of Evil Scientist, he creates skeletal reindeer and goes out to impersonate Santa Claus.  Jack, the sole voice of reason and most hated man in Halloweentown, protests, but is ignored. 
Jack eventually reveals to his undead girlfriend that he is the rightful Pumpkin King.  Evil Scientist created the fake King and usurped his power.  Together they attack the usurper and save Halloween. 
This is the story of A Nightmare Before Christmas I expected when I saw the trailer as a young man. 

Note: Not the trailer I originally saw, but I can't seem to find it online.

It's the story I expected when I went to the film.  What did I get?

Nice songs.  Pretty animations.  A story about some weirdo who hates his job and, inexplicably, decides he likes it again.  A fight against a bag of bugs monster that was tacked on in the end to add dramatic tension.
"You're joking!  I can't believe my script."
I know Nightmare is a "beloved family classic," but bleah.  The film worked great as a poem, but without the songs and animation, it falls down as a story.

This is Nightmare Trailer Syndrome: a movie where the trailer is better than the movie.  Sadly, that's most movies these days.  We need a "Great Trailer/Bad Movie Film Festival."  Any suggestions of what trailers we would show?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sex = Fun 2?

I love Facebook.  Being on Facebook is like being a politician.  If you collect enough Friends, you don't have to pay attention to any of them.

I came across a thread about teens having sex.  One participant was dismayed teenagers were having babies.  Oh, you silly teens.  Having sex is for grown-ups!  Don't you know that?

Someone posted: "It's not just for making babies.  Sex is fun, too!"

Ah, we're back to that, are we?  I thought I took care of this in 2009.  Let's try it another way.  Sit down.  I'll tell you a story:

Imagine you meet and marry the greatest person in the world.  Your spouse is perfect: brilliant, funny, caring, gorgeous, sexy.  You have a family, and when you both decide there's enough kids in your life, your spouse sits down with you.

"You're awhat?" you say.

"I don't enjoy sex.  Not even a little.  I never have.  It's just the way I was born.  I only had sex to please you so we could have a family.  I can't do it anymore.  I love you.  I love our family.  I'll do anything else, but no more sex of any kind."

Shouldn't be a problem, right?  After all, you have the family you want.  There are other kinds of fun you can have with your spouse: bar-hopping, fine dining, movies, camping, etc.  Worse comes to worst, you can masturbate, or hire a prostitute, or have an affair.

(Amusing side note.  Only 10% of men who had affairs report that their mistresses were prettier than their wives.  Take away: if you're going to sleep around, you have to lower your standards.)
There's a reason we don't see their faces.

If sex is just for entertainment and procreation, it shouldn't matter.  If you'd be fine giving up going to sports or movies or concerts with your perfect spouse, you'd be fine giving up having a sex life.

However, if sex is also about self-esteem, about your identity, about intimacy and bonding with another person, you'd be fine shutting up about sex being about fun and babies.

Please don't make me have to write another post about this in five years.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trainer to English Dictionary

I've been seeing a personal trainer for many years.

My adventure in exercise started in the late 90s.  I'd been working for software companies for several years.  Not being even slightly interested in sports or exercise and working in front of computers (and enjoying a sedentary lifestyle), I atrophied at an alarming rate.  I've always had back pain , but it wasn't until I turned my head one day and threw out my back that I realized I needed help.

"I'm fine.  I always walk like this."
Then I changed my mind.  I wasn't thrilled with the idea of going to the gym.  The kids who worked out were the same ones who picked on me in high school, and old resentments die hard.  After I threw my back out two more times and spent weeks walking like Quasimodo, I agreed to a session with a trainer.  We'll call him "Daniel"* to protect my ego.

Training started from the most embarrassing possible place.  Standing in a corner of the gym's free weight room, surrounded by men and women trying out for roles in a Schwarzenegger biopic, Daniel gave me a beach ball.
Even she made me look bad.
"Hold this at arm's length and twist from side to side," he said.

"That's it?" I said, affronted. "Twist?"

After twenty twists, I was lying on the floor, covered in sweat, panting, seized up in agony.  My triceps had cramped so badly, Daniel had to help me into a stretch to make the pain stop.

I kept seeing Daniel, and working on building my strength.  It's taken me years to become the giant, gorgeous mass of muscle I am today.  And...  Hm...

Oh, right, there was a point to all this.  After many years and thousands of dollars spent on training, I've learned a few things that will help you, should you choose to visit a trainer.  The most important lesson I can impart is this: trainers don't speak English.

Well, it's a special version of English that uses words differently than we normal humans (or "flabby, girly men") do.  Here's a quick chart to help you translate:

Trainer says
Trainer means
Five more.
How many more push-ups can I make you do?
Three more.
I bet I can make you have a heart attack!
One more.
You're still breathing.
I'll call 911
How are you feeling?
Do you have a will?
Try it more like this.
I think I heard a bone snap.
Good work today.
I thought you were going to die.
You need to work out at home.
You get bigger every week.
Looking good!
Wow, you're fat.
See you next week.
I look forward to hurting you.
Any sentence with nouns.
You're too fat.
Any sentence with verbs.
This is going to hurt.

Hope that helps.  See you at the gym!  I'll be the guy in the corner with the beach ball, looking sexy.

*His real name.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Dr. Who Spec Script (Part 1)

I was always a Dr. Who geek.  As a kid, I would watch Tom Baker (and the "other" Doctors) regularly defeat horrible monsters with great enjoyment.
  • When the show was cancelled, I was dismayed.  
  • When they tried to make an American version, I was dismayed.  
  • When they made the new version, I was dismayed.
A year ago, I tried watching the new version of Dr. Who again, and I liked it.  I watched all the way to the Peter Capaldi season (which isn't on Netflix yet).

If any both of you read the title of this post, you know I'm going.  I decided to write an episode.  The script below comprises the first quarter of it.  I've outlined the rest, but haven't finished.

My question to you: What do you think?  Should I finish it?  Will the BBC answer my emails?

               EXT. SPACE

               A giant SPACE BATTLESHIP with GLOWING ENGINES tears through
               space.  It rushes towards a small, blue world, bent on
               horrible destruction.  Dark, terrifying music plays.

               The engines flicker and with a sad BEEE-WOOP, go dark.  The
               battleship slows and the nose goes down as it loses attitude

               After a beat, the engines light up again with an ominous hum. 
               It rights itself and rushes forward towards the planet again.

               BEEE-WOOP.  The engines fail another time.  

               The TARDIS appears.  It's spinning in circles around the
               battleship's engines.  The engines re-ignite but are struck
               by a beam from the TARDIS and go out again.  The battleship
               and the TARDIS are stuck in a stalemate: technology vs.

               INT. BRIDGE

               CAPTAIN MALANTHE, a sleek, angry woman sits in the center
               chair surrounded by lights and screens.  The bridge rocks
               around her, equipment sparks, but she ignores it all to stare
               furiously at her VIEWSCREEN, where THE DOCTOR stares back at
               her, leaning against the center console.  CLARA stands in the
               background, clutching a railing.

               Melanthe presses a button on the arm of her chair.

                         Re-ingite the primary engines.

                                   MECHANICAL VOICE
                         Main engines online.

               The lights on the bridge brighten.

                             (to Clara)
                         Press the button again.

               Clara jumps forward and presses a single button.  The
               battleship bridge shakes and sparks fly from consoles again. 
               The muffled BEEE-WOOP can be heard as the engines shut down.

                         You can't win, Doctor!  That planet
                         will die, sooner or later.

                         It's going to be later.  Much, much
                         later.  Without your light drives,
                         it will take you about...  Hm.  

               Does math on his fingers.

                                   DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                         Carry the two... Fifty years to
                         reach Thalossa 3.  You'll be old
                         and grey by then.

                         So will you.

               The Doctor glances at his reflection on the console and
               subconsciously fixes his hair.

                         Some of us wear it well.  Who would
                         hire you to eradicate the
                         Thalossans?  They don't harm
                         anyone.  They're sympaths.  It
                         literally hurts them more than it
                         hurts you.

                         I don't ask why.  It's just my job.

                         Get a new job.  I hear accounting
                         is nice.

                         You can't stop me.

                         I am stopping you.  Didn't...
                         Didn't you just see that?  With
                         your engines going "beeeeeeoop" and
                         all?  You want me to do it again? 
                         Clara!  Button.

               Click.  Beeeeeoop.

                         Oh, you can slow me down, but
                         sooner or later that ugly,
                         crumbling, wreck of yours is going
                         to fail and I will win.

               INT. TARDIS

               The Doctor and Clara are watching Melanthe on a holographic
               screen near the central console.  He sputters with anger.

                         Did you just call...?  The TARDIS
                         is not a..!  How dare..!  It's not
                         crumbling!  Clara!

                         Push the button again?

                         No, pull the lever!

               She looks over the console for a beat.

                         Which one?

                         The BIG one.  The Big Red Lever.

               Clara pulls the lever.  A deep hum builds up.

                                   DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                         I was going to let you go.  I was
                         going to let you start over.  I
                         even signed you up for an
                         accounting class.  But nobody
                         insults the TARDIS.  Now you pay
                         the price.

               The hum reaches its crescendo.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. SPACE

               The TARDIS unleashes a piercing beam of energy at the
               battleship.  Lightning rips across the surface of the ship
               and explosions blossom on the engines.

               INT. BRIDGE

               Melanthe is still smiling.

                         Thank you doctor.

               She reaches down and picks up a metal ball the size of a shot
               put with a small, paper note taped to it.  The Doctor puts on
               his glasses and leans forward.

                         What's that?

                         A gift from an old enemy of yours.

                         Who?  The Daleks?




                         The Master?  The Silence?  The
                         Centaurans?  Animus?  Slitheen? 
                         Sil?  Megron?  The Faceless Ooze? 
                         Nomatron Seven?

               Melanthe continues to shake her head.

                         Now you're just making them up.

               Melanthe takes the note off the ball and reads it.

                         When The Doctor arrives, insult his
                         TARDIS.  When he gets mad enough to
                         expose the TARDIS's power core,


               Melanthe blows gently on the sphere.  It flashes brightly,
               transforming into a BALL OF LIGHT which whizzes forward
               through the screen.

               EXT. SPACE

               The ball of light shoots out of the front of the battleship
               and flies straight for the TARDIS.

               INT. TARDIS

               The Doctor jumps to work the controls.

                         Hang on!

               Clara braces for impact.

               EXT. SPACE

               The TARDIS neatly avoids the ball of light.

               INT. TARDIS

               Crisis averted, the Doctor turns from the console and smiles
               at the image of Melanthe.

                         Crumbling?  Ha!  Wreck?  Ha!


                         Not now, Clara.  I'm gloating.


               He turns just in time to see the ball of light, now expanded
               to giant size, engulf the TARDIS main console.

               Sparks fly.  The lights go out.  The glowing ball of energy
               casts an eerie glow over everything.  The Doctor reaches out
               to it but, it's solid.

                         That's not good.


                         It's a force field keeping me from
                         the controls.  I can't vent the
                         core pressure.  I can't even see
                         where we are.  Clara, be a dear and
                         open the door.

               Clara runs over to the door and opens it.  Wind blows in at
               her.  She gasps.  Outside, the PLANET looms large. 

               They're falling towards it.  The TARDIS is starting to heat
               up in the atmosphere.

               The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on the force field.

                         What do we do?

                             (pointing at a hallway)
                         Go up there and open the third
                         closet from the left.

               Clara rushes off.  The Doctor keeps working while talking to
               her.  The hum of the TARDIS grows increasingly louder as if
               it's going to explode.

                                   DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                         You'll find a small metal chest at
                         the bottom.

               Clara drags out a small trunk for possessions like a soldier
               in WWII might have had.   

                                   DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                         Open it!  There's two metal
                         cannisters at the bottom marked
                         EVAC 1 and 2.

               She rummages through a pile of old socks before finding the
               cannisters.  They have high tech, weather-beaten look to
               them.  She runs back.  

               The Doctor gives up on the screwdriver and punches the force
               field with frustration.  The hum is dangerously loud.

                         I've got them!  What do I do?

               The Doctor takes one and twists it open.  A fish pops out,
               with tiny fins and eyestalks.

               Clara jumps back in surprise, dropping the second cannister,
               as the fish flops to the floor.  It swells, monstrously,
               until it's twice as big as Clara.

                                   CLARA (CONT'D)
                             (backing away as the fish
                              faces her)
                         Doctor!  What-

               With a giant gulp, it swallows her whole.  The Doctor isn't
               paying attention, he's on all fours chasing the other
               cannister as it rolls away over the deck.

               The fish pivots its eyestalks at the door and sees the blue
               world below.  It hops on its fins and tumbles, happily out
               into space.  The cannister rolls after it as the TARDIS is
               rocked by explosions.

               The Doctor watches from the console.

                         Good luck, Clara.

               There's another explosion.  Lights around the console flash
               and a sad noise plays.  The Doctor smiles makes a hushing

                                   DOCTOR (CONT'D)
                         Hush.  I'm not leaving you.  I'd
                         never leave you. The Doctor is
                         nothing without his TARDIS.

               EXT. SPACE

               The TARDIS, spinning out of control, is close enough to the
               planet that its features are clear.  It's covered with giant,
               blue oceans and dotted with a few, green islands.  The TARDIS
               flies out into space as the giant fish floats by.  It "swims"
               as best it can towards the planet, a look of intense
               eagerness on its face.

               After a beat, the TARDIS explodes spectacularly into tiny

               OPENING CREDITS

               EXT. BEACH - DAY

               Clara's POV.  

               Darkness.  The sound of waves crashing on the beach.  The
               darkness clears to a fuzzy view of the sky.  A fireball is
               fading out.  The fuzziness clears.  Waves lap against the
               shore.  The giant fish, sitting in the sand, smiles, turns
               clumsily, and flops into the water. 

               The sound of footsteps.  Clara turns to see a man squatting
               before her.

               It's The Doctor.  

                         Are you all right, Clara?

               But it's not the Doctor.  It changes and now the man is an
               alien with a bluish cast to his skin and a fin on his domed
               head.  He wears primitive,  dark brown clothes and has a net
               in his belt.  He squats down near her.

                         Are you all right, Clara?

               Her vision blurs again and all goes black.

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. BRIDGE

               Melanthe smiles at the viewscreen.  The dust of the TARDIS is
               slowly pulled down to the planet.

                         Well, that was fun.

               She presses a button on her chair.

                                   MELANTHE (CONT'D)
                         Damage report.  How long until we
                         can be underway again?

                                   MECHANICAL VOICE
                         Five weeks.

                         Take your time.  There's no hurry

               She turns back to the viewscreen, which shows a pristine blue
               world, now undefended.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Relationship Wishes

I created a hypothetical question, I want you to think about.

The Setup
Imagine your spouse, or your partner, or whomever you've loved the most.  You've been married for a while.  Maybe you've just been in a relationship for a long time.  Don't imagine some perfect partner who looks into your eyes with fawning affection.  Imagine your real partner.  If you aren't with anyone right now, imagine you're with the partner you loved the most.

After years together, you truly appreciate your partner's flaws.  Maybe he's lazy.  Maybe she's always sad.  He's gotten old and fat.  She snores like a volcano.  You know what drives you crazy; pick that.

The Inciting Incident
You buy something at a store, or maybe a garage sale.  It's an antique lamp just like in the old Aladdin cartoons.  Maybe it's a piece of antique jewelry you got for almost nothing.  An old record, a gold box, a rare coin, it doesn't matter.

Point is, your partner finds it, you pay, and you take it home together. Your partner holds it up and blows off a little dust.

That's when the genie pops out.

The Genie
Yeah, it's a genie.  Just like in the cartoons.  It looks like smoke and has no legs.  It's blue (or red, or whatever you want to imagine); it speaks with a middle-eastern accent and makes jokes like Robin Williams.

The problem is, it has been waiting around for so long, its powers have weakened.  It only has one wish left, and it goes to your partner who blew off the dust.  Also, since you bought it together, your partner can only make a wish about you.  In short, your partner can make one of two wishes:
  1. Change you into the person your partner dreams of.
  2. Replace you with someone perfect for them.
Remember all those flaws your partner had?  You have flaws, too, and they bother your partner as much as his or hers bother you.  Think about that for a moment.

Your Flaws
What does your partner hate the most about you? Are you too obsessed with work?  Are you having trouble losing weight?  Are you short?  Old?  Slow?  Dumb?  Poor?  Too liberal?  Too conservative?  Do you drink too much?  Does your partner hate your friends?

What would your partner change about you?  More important (really the point of all this), do you consider that flaw a fundamental part of who you are?  Would you still be you if you'd had different parents or didn't care about the state of the country?

Your partner glances at you out of the corner of an eye, and you realize what the wish is going to be.  It makes you uncomfortable.

The Catch
At this point, the genie leans over and whispers into your ear.

"There's one more catch," it says.  "Since you share the wish, you get to choose which kind of wish it will be.  You choose if you get changed or if your partner gets someone else."

The Choice
It's down to two choices for you:

Choice #1
You let your partner change you into someone diferent.  Maybe it's something small, like being younger, or taller, or richer, or healthier.  Maybe it's something that would turn you into a different person: more devout, less political, more devoted to your relationship, less interested in your hobby.

You get to be with your love, but it's not exactly you anymore.

Choice #2
You leave, and watch your beloved, flawed partner fall in love with someone else.  Someone perfect in a way you can't ever be.  Your partner is happy.  You're alone.

But you're still you.

The Question
Well?  What do you pick?  Why?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Hate BLANKing. I Love Having BLANKed.

Dorothy Parker is famous for...  Er.  Something about a table?  I dunno.  Has anyone really read anything she ever wrote?  Whoever she was, she once said:
I hate writing.  I love having written.
Which is a very true statement for many writers.  Writing is deeply painful.  Here's a picture of a writer, working on a novel:

And here he is again, after finishing:

I was thinking how Dorothy's phrase was useful for other things than writing. For example:
I hate working out.  I love having worked out.
Because working out feels like this:

And afterwards, you get an endorphin rush and big muscles and feel like this:

Or, how about:
I hate having children.  I loved having children.
Okay, doesn't make a lot of sense until you consider the two senses of the phrase "having children."

Dorothy's expression works for so many different situations I wonder if  ghosts say it to each other.
I hated living.  I love having lived.
Yeah, don't live like that.  Enjoy the moment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Movie Posters and the Death of the American Writer

Recently, I bought my father (Hey, mom!  Tell Dad I'm talking about him.  On my BLOG!) a copy of the Ender's Game movie.  My father is a big Orson Scott Card fan: read everything Card ever wrote, even written articles about him.  The movie was an essential part of his collection.  However, when the movie arrived, it had this cover:

I was a bit shocked.  The first poster, showing a kid preparing for combat, is a gripping image that gives you a great sense of what the movie is about.  The second poster shows you who acts in it and...

Well, that's about it.  I guess it looks kinda science-fictiony, but all you're getting out of the poster is an airbrusher's wet dream of a movie.  I can't  believe anyone would want to go see a movie with that poster.

And yet...

Pretty much every movie does the same thing.  I did a quick image search on "movie poster" and my first result was:

"Hey, look how many people we could fit into this poster!"  Some day we'll get something like:

There must be a huge amount of research behind the design of these posters.  I'm guessing it says the only thing movie viewers care about is who is in the film.  As a prospective screenwriter, I find that reality a bit depressing.  What kind of movies are we going to get if the only important aspect of filmmaking is who you hire to play the leads?

Actually, I know the answer to that.  We'll get movies like Upside Down.
Hey, only two people in this movie!
I just saw Upside Down.  It's two worlds linked together and reverse.  It's a beautiful film.  The concept is interesting.  The writing is absolutely terrible. 

Literally, the movie would be improved if you turned off the sound.  About 90% of the dialogue is people either baldly stating obvious feelings (she holds him over a drop and he says "Don't drop me!" three times before he falls.) or baldly stating obvious facts (She's forgotten him after a head injury and tells him "I have amnesia.  I don't remember anything.").

Welcome to the future of film.  On the down side, movies are all going to be about beautiful people saying idiotic things.  On the up side, more Kirsten Dunst.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Encyclopedia Brown-esque Mystery

I used to love Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid.  If you aren't familiar with them, the basic idea is each story comes in two parts: the mystery and the solution.  The solution was at the back of the book, so you could read the mystery, try to figure it out, and then flip to the solution.

I thought I'd try to make my own mystery.  Today, I present to you: The Mystery of the Phantom Coffee Person

His name was Matthew.  He was tall, witty (in a humble sort of way) and unnervingly handsome.  Once a week, he visited Starbucks to work on his blog, which was so brilliant only two people read it.
He had chosen Starbucks not because the coffee snobs despised it, although that was reason enough, but because he hated coffee.  Put enough milk and sugar in it to make it taste like ice cream, and he could manage to choke it down, which is what Starbucks excelled at.

It also made him feel important when he ordered.  The long list of drink-jargon gave him the cache of a VIP.  After emotional setbacks, he'd add another word or two to his order.  What had started as a "tall latte" had (after a painful review of his groundbreaking novel) grown to a "tall, nonfat latte" and finally (following an unfortunate medical diagnosis) to "tall, nonfat, vanilla latte."

One thing puzzled him, however.  Every time he entered his Starbucks, there was a cluster of objects on the table nearest the door.  It didn't matter what day or what time, the same constellation of objects were always there in the same positions.

There was:
  • ·         Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, placed farthest away from the door
  • ·         The UCSC Extension course catalog, sitting across from the book
  • ·         The coffee cup, always placed on top of the course catalog
  • ·         A small canister of "Renesse," whatever that was
  • ·         A tan bag with handles, perhaps a purse or small tote bag.

The mystery of the Phantom Drinker perplexed him for hours, detracting from his usual job of making the world a brighter place.  Was the Phantom Drinker an employee of the coffee shop?  One of those freelance HR workers who interviewed candidates at Starbucks?  A hit man who got assignments in drinkable form?  One of those perpetual college students who took a couple of courses a year, but never wanted to graduate?

The questions haunted him.

He considered lying in wait to catch the Drinker.  He considered leaving a message.  One time, wondering how the Drinker could possibly still be reading Rushdie after all these years, he left a card for his groundbreaking, mind-blowing novel on it.  The card disappeared; the objects never changed.
Finally, waiting in line one day, one of the coffee shop workers stood next to him, cleaning the baked goods cabinet.  In a rush of desperation he turned and asked.

"So, what's the deal with the person whose stuff is by the door?" he said.

The employee turned back to look at the Phantom Drinker's spot, and then answered...


Imagine you're flipping to the end of the book.

She's not a ghost!  She's been projecting an image of herself by using a mirror so the boat never reaches the shore!

Huh?  I always got the page number wrong when I flipped to the end of the Encyclopedia Brown book, ruining the solution to a different mystery.  Now imagine you went back to check the page number again and flipped to the correct page.

There was a false compartment in the wooden shoes! 

What?  No...  Oh, page 117!  Right.  Gotta see someone about my dyslexia...

"Oh, her?" the employee said.  "Yeah, she's homeless.  She kinda lives in the parking lot.  She's got a van she lives out of."

He remembered her, then.  The chain-smoking woman with the black, down vest and short, grey hair.  She wore giant sunglasses over another pair of reading glasses and walked with a painful slouch around the mini-mall.  He'd seen her sitting in all those chairs and tables scattered around that nobody else sat in: in the corner beside Safeway, in front of the closed Fro-Yo.

The things she left on the table weren't clues.  She wasn't really choosing courses or reading a novel.  They were just placeholders.  She was marking her territory.  "This is where I sit.  Don't sit here."

It was his turn to order.  "Tall," he said, "Nonfat, vanilla latte."  Then, after a moment, he added: "extra-hot."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Am a Gamer

I am a gamer.

When I was young, and gaming was new, the title of "gamer" didn't exist.  Instead, we were known as "losers."  Few of us played video games.  Few of us played role-playing games.  Few of us liked science fiction and fantasy novels (and films).  Those pastimes were for the underclass of junior high and high school: the geeks, the nerds, the unpopular.

Popular kids detassled corn, played mumblety-peg with sharpened knives, rode unicycles...


Actually, I don't have a clue what the popular kids did.  I do know they had no interest in computers.  I like to imagine those popular kids are now shoveling garbage for a living.  I also like to imagine they think "Gee, if I'd only been nicer to those geeks, I would be able to cope with the modern world."

But I digress.

In between expeditions to the White Plume Mountains, we bemoaned our inability to talk to girls.  If only they played Atari cartridges instead of records.  If only they liked Star Wars instead of football players.  If only they tried Champions instead of... 

Er...  I'm back to unicycles again.  What did girls like in high school in the 80s?  Welding?  Trigonometry?

The point is, if only we geeks shared interests with girls, we could have talked to them.  Instead, we became bright red and silent in their presence.

Oh, how the world has changed.  Computers are everywhere.  Games are the dominant entertainment medium.  And we can talk to women without the need to discuss unicycles.*  This world is awesome!

And yet...

In this bright, shiny, new world do we get what we geeks always wanted: a diverse group of game lovers?  No.  Now those same idiots, exactly like those who ridiculed me in high school, are attacking women.  You read that right, women are being pushed out after it took so long for them to get in!

To those who are threatening women, ridiculing women, and attacking feminism in defense of games: Stop it.  Games will always be fun and groundbreaking and threatening to the status quo.  Games will always be played by women with opinions.

You are the problem, not them.  Get over it or, at the very least, learn to shut up.  This is our world now, not your world.

I am a gamer.  They are gamers.  We are gamers.

Fuck yeah!

*Except as foreplay.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Open Letter to Jennifer Lawrence* from Men

It's been a tough couple of weeks to be a woman.

No, wait, it's always tough to be a woman.  They make 76.5% of what men make for the same job.  They aren't allowed to control their own bodies.  They're kidnapped and forgotten.  While they commit a tiny percentage of violent crimes, they are still treated as if they were the emotionally unstable gender.

It's enough to make you think the world will be better off if men were locked away from the rest of society.

Let me rephrase: the last couple weeks were tough for men who care about women:

If you missed that last one, someone hacked the accounts of Jennifer Lawrence and several other stars and published compromising pictures of them online.  The backlash against the hackers was swift and severe.

Ha!  I'm kidding.  People blamed the victims.  Again.

I once posted an article called "Jennifer Lawrence Topless" in a blatant attempt to get people to click on my page (and it worked: 1056 hits).  I thought it was funny because she's a talented actress.  I thought she'd never do a nude scene.  Heck, she was the one from the "We Saw Your Boobs" song who didn't look embarrassed.

So, I feel bad and am writing to say "I'm sorry" and to explain why men hack accounts, kidnap, rape, drug, abuse, and generally mistreat women.


An Open Letter to Jennifer Lawrence* and Other Women from Men

Dear Jennifer (and the other three to four billion women),

Men are dicks.

I don't mean men are mean, selfish, losers.  That's an oversimplification.  I mean think of us as giant, walking penises.  If you consider us anthropomorphic phalli, everything we do makes perfect sense, because we really do think with our dicks.

Here's how it works: 
  1. When we see someone attractive, our reactions fairly normal: lust, desire, wistfulness.  
  2. Testosterone seeps into our brains in increasing quantities, changing our thinking processes in subtle ways.  
  3. Our way of thinking changes, and we become obsessed.  Acting like an idiot makes perfect sense.  Some examples:
    "If I sell my house and spend all the money on buying her gifts, she'll love me." or "
    If I shot the president, she'd notice me." or "Even though she's never met me, we're soul mates."
  4. In some cases, the feeling abates and we return to our "normal" state.
  5. Regret.  Anger (testosterone is an aggression hormone, too).
  6. Back to step 1.
You must have seen evidence of this behavior.  Someone pursued you desperately and, when you slept with him, he disappeared.  Once the hormones receded, he realized he didn't really like you all that much in the first place.  And, of course, it was your fault.

So, why did we turn the movie Sex Tape into a documentary?  Why are we currently downloading them millions of times per minute?  Why are we blaming you for our actions?  

Because, for just a little while, we got to trick ourselves into believing you were our girlfriend.  We imagined you sent us those pictures.  

Look through all those steps above and remember-

We're dicks.



*Jennifer Lawrence will never read this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Truncated Films

A couple weeks ago, I posted about (among other things) how movie theater signs cut off the names of films.  I noticed that these truncated names are more interesting than the original movies.  Take these examples:

Aren't these better than the originals?  Take "Dawn of the Plan."  Either it's about a jewelry heist (but the thieves never get past the planning stage) or it's a movie about a young woman named Dawn escaping an extremist religious cult: The Plan.

Compare this to the original film: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is about apes and humans killing each other over...  Er.  I can't really remember why there was killing.  I just remember it was two hours of general crankiness.

BTW, General Crankiness was not a great guy to serve under.
Then there are the two new Transformers movies.  The original Transformers films are...  Well...
The term "awful mess" comes to mind.
In contrast, we have:

Transformers: Age 0 - A heartwarming animated film about the birth of Cybertron, starring Baby Transformers.  Awwww.


Transformers: Ag! - A film about the last moments of Michael Bay, who was strangled just as he was about to pitch his idea for Transformers 5.

There's also:

Deliver Us from Evi - The sad tale of children leaving their home in Evi, New York and travelling by "orphan train" to find families in the old west.

How to Train Your D - The Muppets teach you phonics!

X-Men: Days of Futu - The X-Men... Uh... There's this guy named Futu.  He's an evil mutant with calendar based powers.  No.  No, Futu is a new mutant-killing...  Er.  Yeah, I got nothing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kids at School Theme Song

Well, that day has finally come.  The kids are in school.  Not just that lame, half-day kindergarten, noooo they're both in school full-time.

You know how there's always that one mom, sobbing in a corner on the first day of school?

"They grow up too fast," she moans.  Yeah, that's not me.  I've been waiting six and a half freaking years for this day.  Those were the longest years of my life, next to the two I spent watching Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion.
Six hours of guys jumping through hoops.  Cirque's not trying anymore.
I'm so pumped about having my life back, I'm picking a theme song about it.  Yes, that's right, the guy who'd be okay if they changed the Constitution to outlaw singing is picking a song.

Here's choice #1:
I plan to get as much done in a day, although the refrain of "When will my life begin?" is a bit contradictory.  My life begins fucking now!  Muhahahah.

Unfortunately, considering how much I usually get done when I have free time, perhaps song choice #2 is more appropriate:

In any case, I think this is the real song being sung by parents everywhere this week:
What would you pick?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RIP Nexus 4

My phone died over the weekend.  It was killed by a Motorola car charger that didn't like it very much.  Now phoneless, I feel sympathy for Sauron from Lord of the Rings, who put all his powers into a small item that destroyed him when it was destroyed.

(Sauron and I have a lot in common, btw. We both went to Carnegie Mellon University, we both dated women who turned into monsters, we both think Orcs are cool, etc.)

Anyway, in honor of my dear, departed Nexus 4, I post this compilation of pictures I took with it.  Sometimes, I snap pictures of things I find amusing, but never get around to making full blog posts out of them.  Here's what I took:
I found this model at the local Michael's. "Hey, kids!  You want to look cool like detectives Crockett and Tubbs?" I guess Hobby Lobby isn't the only craft store that's out of touch with modern culture.  

This herbal remedy is supposed to help with your heart, but (from the name) I'm guessing they're trying to compete with Viagra.

Evidence that Trader Joe's is a front for a crystal meth operation.

My son made this tank out of items in our kitchen.  On the one hand, I admire his ingenuity.  On the other, I had to demolish it to make dinner.

Seems like an ad for people with ADD.  "You should really save energy POPCORN because the environment POPCORN needs your help."

I took this picture on the school playground.  Someone's note/napkin fell out of his or her lunchbox, probably while the kid was running.

Someone was selling magic, protective amulets.  Apparently, Judaism protects you from earthquakes.

Someone's bumper sticker against the NSA.  Thing is, if you use an old-style, rotary phone like shown in this picture, the NSA is probably ignoring you.  If not, this sticker will totally make them back off.

Underside of my Revere Ware pot.  The copper discolored in a cool way.  Once, I accidentally left a similar pot on the stove for hours and found the whole thing glowing these colors.  Then the ceramic cooktop of the stove cracked in half.

A water bottle from my son's school we put in the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  Actually, it's a good representation of how I feel about our recent agreement with the school district.

This tiny tree had grown one, GIANT lemon.  I see it as a metaphor for something in life.  Parenthood?  Unbalanced lifestyle?  Bad eating habits?  You be the judge.

The rubber thing on the left is an eraser shaped like a robot I had since I was a kid (named BRAK).  I noticed his face is eerily similar to the Telltale Games logo.  My lawyer tells me this means Telltale owes me money for copyright infringement.  Who am I to argue with a litigious old man in a Dodge Rambler?

My art installation: racism as told through the medium of biscuits.

Went to go see Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise.  The sign above the theater said "Edge of Tom," which was a very accurate review of the film.

Found this in the candy aisle of Office Depot.  That's right, if you want candy, they'll send some guy over to your house with it.  I think we could quickly bankrupt the store with this policy.

Goodbye, old phone.  I shall miss you.  Well, until my new one arrives and I get text messages again.  Sheesh, where do they go, anyway?  Is that YOU stealing them, NSA?!