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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oma

My Oma and her great granddaughter on her penultimate Hannukah. Oma's the one on the left.
When Milton Doner, my Opa (German for "grandfather"), died, I was driving across the country to a new home in California; I received a call from my parents telling me when I got to Utah.  In a flurry of phone calls my father managed to figure out how to get me back to Michigan in time for the funeral.

Jewish funerals are funny.  We're a bit creeped out by dead bodies.  Instead of making them pretty and displaying them a week or two after death, we keep them safely locked in a casket and get them in the ground as quickly as possible.  I think we're worried the dead body will put us off dinner.  The 11th commandment in the Torah is "Thou Shalt Not Ruin the Brisket for Everyone."

Anyway, I was anxiously accepting the idea of making a last-minute flight with six connections and leaving my new wife (a woman we now call She Who Must Not Be Named) to drive a thousand miles alone.

A few minutes later, I got a call from my Ilse, my Oma (German for "grandmother"), letting me off the hook.  She told me weddings take precedence over funerals in Jewish culture.  Starting a new family should come first.

That whole new family thing didn't work out, but you have to be impressed with her strength.  She didn't cry.  She didn't selfishly insist I come pay my respects to her husband.  Oma just said "She was kind to him at last."  God was a woman according to Oma.

Last week, she died.  My son is ill, and I didn't want to leave him to travel to the funeral.  This time, my mother called to let me off the hook.  Still, I'm disappointed I won't be able to be with my family and talk about Oma's life.  Here's what I'd say:
  • Oma lived to be 101 years old.  She was a triumph of nature (and life extension medicine).
  • Oma survived the Nazis and the Reagan administration.  If the woman who built her had built the Titanic, it would have arrived in New York ahead of schedule with tiny pieces of iceberg stuck in her prow.
  • Oma had three children, one of whom made good by giving birth to me.
  • Oma went from humble beginnings as a refugee to the wealthy head of a family, proving the validity of the American dream (and the lucrativeness of the lighting business she helped start in Michigan).

So let us cheer her life.  Let us beat the shit out of those who say "the good die young."  Let us revel in the America that gave her a new life.  Let us laugh at the Nazis who could topple nations and kill millions but failed to stop one Jewish lady.


Most of all, when the time comes, let us let others off the hook.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 2: Contentment


In preparing for my Regret Crushing Birthday (see last week) I wrote a list of things I regretted never accompishing.  Problem was the list kept growing.  While adding:
  • Cartwheels
  • Bike without using hands

I realized I should be listing those things I no longer regret.  It's a short list.  Really, it's just one thing:
  • Never becoming a BATS Sunday Player

A few months after my divorce, I went to my brother's wedding (Hi Jon!).  During the reception, someone pointed out he met his wife (Hi Laura!) at an improvisational comedy class.  At least three people came up to me and said "Hey, you're a funny guy..."

Ah, to be newly single at a wedding.
Yeah, I'll just skip that bouquet toss.
I took improvisational comedy classes at BATS (Bay Area Theater Sports) in San Francisco.  It was... painful.  I can't act and many of the exercises seemed aimed at making the participants as uncomfortable as possible.  The aim of the Impro Movement is to break down those barriers that keep us from creativity, to tell our inner naysayers to shut the fuck up.

It was hard.  I was about to quit when my brother casually mentioned he'd been offered a part as a regular player in his local Imrpov group.

I don't have an adversarial relationship with my brother because I'm awesome and he lives near Seattle.  However, I signed up for more classes.  Now I had a goal to light the darkness of my spinsterhood.

I'll just follow that light.  What could possibly go wrong?
I took class after class, working my way up into more advanced scenework.  I expected, someday, to be invited into the select group of Sunday Players, the first step into becoming part of the regular players.  It never happened.

One day, I overheard them invite a student who'd never taken improv classes before to join the Sunday Players.  I was crushed.

Then I realized they were looking for something I would never give them.  They wanted an actor, someone who could subtly express emotions, someone who was interested in helping the group shine.  I wanted to be creative, to make the audience laugh.

And, yeah, to be as good at something as my brother.
It's tough being a younger brother.
"You know, there are other spaces where you can perform," one teacher said as I explained I was quitting.  She was right.  I found myself.  We all know the Shakespeare quote "All the world's a stage."  That's true, but you are a stage unto yourself.

Class after class, month after month improv taught me to break down the barriers in my own mind to open up to the creativity buried there.  Along the way, I met some of the best friends I've ever had (Hi Mike and Cindi!).  No, I never became a Sunday Player, but I did learn to write, teach, and design games.

So, no, I don't regret failing to become a Sunday Player.  The things I do regret?  I'll start on those next week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Birthday 2015 - Part 1: Regret


If any of you have read my novel (on sale for 99 cents at Amazon if you buy now!), you'll remember the story of Mitchell.

Yeah, this is a spoiler alert.  Feel free to skip
[SPOILER]
Mitchell travels back in time to fix his life.  He becomes rich on the stock market, dates all the women he loved from afar, and eventually realizes he wants his old family back.  It's too late, though.  He's changed his life too much, and his daughter is never born.
[END SPOILER]
The point of Mitchell's story is that regret is a trap.  If you changed anything about your past, no matter how horrible, you'd be a different person today.  You might as well kill yourself and let another person take over your life.

I remind myself of this aphorism at least once a month, because I'm a heavily regretful person.  There are things I can't change, shouldn't change, but it still makes me wistful sometimes.

Hence my 2015 birthday plans.  If you're just joining this blog, I've been trying to do something new and wild every year as a way of staving off my inevitable slide into dementia.  I've gone on a quest, I've jumped out of an airplane, I've fired guns, I've swum naked with a dozen nubile virgins...
Wait, that didn't happen?  Man dementia kicks in fast.
Anyway, this year I've decided to deal with some of my long-standing regrets.  I'm going to accomplish all the things I never accomplished, learn to do all those things I never learned.

Dream the impossible dream...

Over the next few weeks I'll be reporting (sporadically) on my progress or lack thereof.  Some might go easily and others... Well, it's not always easy to set these things up.


Speaking of which, if any of you know where I can get a dozen nubile young virgins, please drop me a line.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Coat Hanger Zodiac


The idea of the stars affecting our personalities goes back thousands of years and has never been disproven by modern science.  In spite of the constant skepticism heaped on those who look to the sky for guidance, millions still read their horoscopes.

Could those millions of people be wrong?  I don't think so.  Could the billions of Chinese who use the Shēngxiào be wrong?  I don't think so.

Skeptics are shallow, narrow-minded, and-

Never mind.  I can't keep that up.

We all know astrology is bullshit, right?  We all know the month or year you were born has nothing to do with who you become, right?  Okay, good.  I don't have to post this video.

Oh, shoot, too late.

If you really want to know more about yourself, you look at your coat hangers.  You heard me, coat hangers!  Go grab a random coat hanger from your closet and match it to the chart below to see what it says about your personality and your fortune!

Hookless Pantholder
About you:
You are reliable, organized, and detail-oriented.  You also have a darker side.  What I'm trying to say is you stole this coat hanger from a hotel.

Your fortune:
You will suffer through a dead-end job until finally being arrested for a petty crime.  You will die after kicking "whippersnappers" off your lawn.  In bed.


Legless Slippy
About you:
You can't handle great burdens.  Like your hanger, if someone makes the mistake of giving you a difficult task (like hanging a winter coat) it will slide right off onto the floor.  Also, you have no legs.

Your fortune:
You have no legs.  You'll need years of physical therapy.  Maybe a wheelchair.  Also, install those little handle things in the bathroom to help you to the toilet.  In bed.
Tiny Pony Sunshine
About you:
You're incapable of handling difficulties.  You are small and ignorant.  You have never accomplished anything important in your life, even graduating school.  You are slow and easily scared.  In other words, you are a small child.

Your fortune:
I dunno.  Grow up?  In bed.


Not a Snowflake
About you:
You have no distinguishing features (good if you want to become a career criminal, bad if you want to become an actor).  People ignore you because they think you have nothing interesting to say, which is true.  You shop at Costco or Sam's Club far too often.

Your fortune:
You will live a horrible life and die a slow and painful death.  In bed.
Ready on Friday
About you:
You're a cheap bastard.  Your clothes are probably in bad shape, too, as you're using free clothes hangers from a dry cleaner.  You are vehemently pro-choice.  People like to have you around the campfire when it's time to make s'mores.  You easily get bent out of shape over trivial issues.

Your fortune:
Hopefully you'll get enough money together to marry a Not a Snowflake and have more children than you can afford.  Then they'll all be like you.  In bed.



What, you don't think these horoscopes are accurate?  Well, I can guarantee they're as accurate as the astrology or the Chinese zodiac!

Friday, March 6, 2015

GDC 2015 Booth Babe Report

The last day of the Game Developers Conference is always sad.  The show closes early and the Moscone Convention Center feels... Empty.  It's like a school after the students have gone away.

(Well, except for all the students are hanging around trying to get some value out of their overpriced badges.)

There is only one way to make myself feel better: make passes at booth babes!

For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of a booth babe, it's a derogatory term for the women who stand at the different areas of the show floor and try to attract you by wearing skimpy, bizarre, or degrading outfits.

It's my practice to approach these spokes-models and make them as uncomfortable as possible (Examples: 2012, 2013, 2014).  Last year, there were only two sets of booth babes.  This year...

None.

Zero. Zilch. Zippo.  Nada.  No booth babes.  Seriously, here's what I found:

Three guys in Dr. Horrible outfits.
Actual quote: Just make sure you get SkookumScript in the picture.
Two guys dressed as bacon.
Actual quote: Most of our bacon strips are women. Funny, they disappeared right when you came by.
And that's it.  I mean, sure, there were a couple women in fancy dresses and one who tied her t-shirt up in front, but nothing...  I don't know... What's the word?

Oh yeah, degrading.  This is the best I could do after spending a whole week looking for booth babes.
Actual quote: No, you can't have our numbers. We're out of your league.
I spoke to them for a while.  One has two bachelor degrees; we talked about the spiritual foundations of Islam and the beauty of Jewish rituals.  The other was working on her masters thesis; we talked about her work growing breast cancer cells in a lab.

So, not only are their outfits decidedly not degrading, but they're both smarter than 99.8% of the conference attendees.  That's right, they're too smart to even act dumb.

What happened?  GamerGate happened.  If you aren't familiar with GamerGate...  Well, good for you.  It's like not being familiar with segregation; if you haven't lived through it, you're better off.

There are two schools of thought about what GamerGate really is.  The first camp thinks GamerGate is a bunch of sexist guys harassing women who make games.  The other camp thinks women are ruining the game industry because they have breasts and periods and icky stuff like that.  The game industry took both of these ideas to heart and (after a brief, chaotic period) acted decisively by removing all the sexist crap at GDC.

Anyway, here is the problem: games are no longer a strictly male entertainment and profession.  We can't treat women as fixtures, decorations, sex objects.  Now we have to see them as actual people.  No, not just people, but people who might be smarter than we are, more successful than we are, better than we are.

Hell, do I have to be the booth babe next year?

There is one bright spot.  I found this magazine in a machine outside the convention center.

An entire strip club promo geared to GDC attendees.
Ah, sexism lives on...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Things I Learned in Costa Rica



Last week I was in Costa Rica.  Here's a quick (visual) run down of what I learned

This is where Costa Rica is.
No, seriously.  I didn't know until I got on the plane.

Zip lining isn't all that exciting.  Also, the outfit you wear squeezes your testicles until they are roughly the shape of bananas.
It's pretty much the same outfit you wear while skydiving.
Costa Ricans have a serious smoking problem.  These are actual packs of tobacco products (mostly cigarettes) with legally required pictures of cancerous mouths, women undergoing chemotherapy, and a few other choice images.
One form of tobacco is made of dead frogs.

"And this cigarette cures impotence!"
And yet, Costa Ricans smoke.

Special Bonus Wisdom: Cream soda is made from pineapples, bananas, lemons, and grapefruit.
It has to be true.  They wouldn't put it on the label if it wasn't!
This last bit of knowledge comes from the lollipops I gave my kids during takeoff and landing to help them deal with change in pressure.  Anyone in the cream soda (or lollipop) business want to explain how they get cream from a pineapple?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Trek Film Abrams Should Have Made

"Why don't they remake bad movies instead of good ones?"
-Someone I thought was Roger Ebert, but I can't find the quote so I'll just attribute it to everyone on the internet.  Everyone.

JJ Abrams directed Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was a terrible movie made worse because it ripped off Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I could go on and on about how terrible a movie it was, but I already did that once.  Instead, I'm going to go on and on about The Trek Film Abrams-

Huh?  You read the title already?  Oh, fine.

While watching the beautiful snooze fest that is Star Trek: The Motion Picture I was struck with an idea; why didn't Abrams rip off this movie instead of Wrath?  He could have done wonders with the pacing and soporific nature of that movie.
And its lack of lens flares.
But Khan is such a popular character, Abrams wouldn't be able to resist using him.  What if he used both!  And behold!  A new film treatment.  We'll call it

Star Trek: Into Light
A giant energy cloud is destroying everything in its path, including planets.  It barrels through the Klingon Empire (leaving them weak and vulnerable). 

Several admirals want to take the opportunity to invade the Empire, but just as a group of starships embark, they realize the cloud is headed towards Earth.  The fleet tries to communicate, but are destroyed, leaving only the Enterprise to save the day.  Kirk is given a mission to figure out how to stop it.  He takes the Enterprise, which has a new XO he's not comfortable with (although they grow close over time) and Dr. Carolyn Markus, a theoretical physicist (whom he grows incredibly close to).
If you know what I mean.
As they approach the cloud, Dr. Carolyn Markus invents a doomsday weapon that could destroy the cloud.  The XO attempts to dissuade her, but she insists on presenting it to the captain.  The XO, revealing himself to be Khan (in the employ of rogue Admirals who want him to try to direct the cloud at the Romulan Star Empire), picks her up with one hand and throws her against the wall, killing her.

Kirk, devastated, starts a crazed investigation through the ship to find the murderer.  His behavior allows Khan (and his compatriots seeded throughout the ship) to mutiny.  When they reach the cloud, Khan successfully communicates with it, and the ship is pulled in.  He then reveals he isn't planning on directing the cloud to follow Starfleet's whims, but use it to rule the galaxy.

Kirk manages to regain the Enterprise, but not before Khan escapes to the center of V'Ger.  Khan is horrified to find that it isn't a massive weapon of war, but a machine with the mind of a child, yearning to merge with its creator to become "something with a soul."  Khan tries to merge with V'Ger, to become godlike in power, but V'Ger finds his soul horrifying.  V'Ger, its hopes of becoming something more dashed, self-destructs with Khan trapped inside.

The Enterprise barely gets away in time, but an alien probe arrives, following V'Ger's path.  They discover it's looking for humpback whales.  Kirk is forced to launch Markus's doomsday weapon at it.  Meanwhile, the Klingons have killed their own chancellor and framed Kirk for the crime.  Fearing their vengeance, he flees with the Enterprise beyond the Great Barrier.  There he finds out that God is really the V'Ger/Khan hybrid-

Too much?

Okay, not my best effort, but better than Into Darkness.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Harry Potter is a Selfish Prick


I'm going to complain about Harry Potter.  Yes, I've done it before.  Yes, I'm going to spoil the book The Deathly Hallows.  Yes, it's about eight inches long.

What?  I mean the new iPad!
Oh, sorry, what was I talking about?  Right, Harry Potter.

The focus of Book 7 is the eponymous Deathly Hallows: three unusually powerful magic items destined to be mastered by Harry.  Why?  Uh, it's never really explained.  He's just destined to be that guy.  Stop asking questions.

The magic items are:
  • A magic cloak of invisibility. 
    He uses the invisibility cloak several times during the series to (gasp) turn invisible.  Why is it so much more powerful than other invisibility cloaks?  It's bigger and it doesn't wear out.  Much like me.
  • A stone that can bring back the dead, but only kinda, so you can talk to them but that's about it. 
    He uses the stone to see his dead loved ones who help him to die in the right time and so not die because he's really a Christ figure and you're asking questions again, aren't you?  Stop it!  Stop.
  • A wand that is "unbeatable" (like mine). 
    He uses the super wand to repair his old, broken wand.  How is it unbeatable?  Well, you can't defeat anyone using it.  Except Dumbledore, who defeated Grindlewald.  How?  I don't know!  What did I say about asking questions?!

Harry decides he doesn't need to keep all the Hallows; he just keeps the cloak.

What. A. Total. Dick.
Never thought I'd be the nice one, did you?
Wait, you don't see it?  Really?  Okay, I'll write this real slow so you can follow: what if someone else needs them?

What if someone else broke a wand?  What if someone else had to make a noble sacrifice?

J.K. Rowling tries to make an excuse for tossing off the wand by saying it's a curse.  He has to hide it away in Dumbledore's grave or else people will try to kill him for it.  There's only two problems with that:
  1. Harry becomes an auror, meaning he goes off and fights bad guys for the rest of his life (because he hasn't had enough of that as a kid).  People are bound to try to kill him anyway.
  2. He tells Voldemort the secret of the wand in front of everyone at Hogwarts.  Everyone knows they can just disarm Harry and go dig it out to master it.

"Just don't tell everyone they just have to disarm me to win it! Okay?  Should I say that again?!"
In any case, he never thinks "Hm, I needed it once, what about other people?  What if I secretly gave it to Olivander so he could make everyone's wands super powerful?  Think of all the good that would do!"

That's not the worst part.  The worst part is the stone.  The magic stone brings his loved ones back to help him through the toughest decision in his life, his own death.  When he's done with it, what does he do?  Does he save it so it can be used by people trying to reconnect to their lost loved ones?  Does he hand it to someone else facing a difficult decision?  Does he think about anyone else?  No.  He throws it away, leaving it lost in the forest.

What does he keep?  The invisibility cloak.  What use is an invisibility cloak now that he doesn't have to sneak around a school?  None.

Harry just assumes he's the only one who will ever need the Hallows.  Fuck all you with broken wands, uncurable diseases, lost loved ones, difficult decisions.  He's got his cloak and can go sneak into girls locker rooms whenever he wants.


Of course he uses it to sneak into locker rooms!  What did I say?  Harry's a dick.
"Wow!  Look at Romilda Vane!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blame Star Trek for the Measles Outbreak


As measles, which used to kill hundreds of children every year before we eradicated it, comes roaring back, America is trying to find a scapegoat.  Time for a multiple choice quiz.  Why aren't parents vaccinating their kids? 

Is it the fault of:
a. The doctor who published the fraudulent paper linking the MMR vaccine and autism?
b. Jenny McCarthy who publicized it?
c.  Pharmaceutical companies who failed to explain the science and necessity of vaccines? 
d. Star Trek?
If you picked d, you've obviously read the title of this post.  Let me explain why, though.

And it's not because Kirk has space herpes.
Science is hard.  Really, really hard.  You may think learning the clarinet is hard, but that's just peanuts to science.  Listen...*

Students doing sciency things in a science library. Science
If you want to even begin to understand science, you have to not only be smart, but determined.  There are hundreds of books on the narrowest of scientific disciplines.  That doesn't count journals, papers, conferences, and all the other little bits you have to get to understand it.  Almost nobody but the most intelligent and studious men and women go into science as a career, building up the storehouse of human knowledge.

Shouldn't they all be in yellow?
A few of them try to explain science to the rest of us.  It doesn't usually work.  Sure, you took chemistry and physics in high school, but you probably only remember a few bits of terminology here and there.

That's the problem.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing as Alexander Pope said.  I bet you don't remember him.  Ha!  Science isn't the only thing we lose from High School.  Anyway, many people think they know something when they don't.

They vaguely remember Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle and decide nobody can never know anything.  They hear about the butterfly effect and think a butterfly really can cause a storm or change the whole world.  Some scientist theorizes cold fusion and they put it in a terrible movie.

A terrible, terrible movie.
Speaking of Star Trek...

Star Trek is responsible for popularizing science to a lot of the general public.  People learned about antimatter, computers, robotics, subspace, and wormholes.  Of course, Star Trek is a fictional show and the science has to fit into the framework of the story.  Transporters, for example, will probably never be invented.  Sometimes they had to make up science-sounding explanations to justify their stories.

They invented technobabble.  Some examples:



The writers of Star Trek realized you can make anything SOUND reasonable if you throw sciencey words in.  A lot of Here's one of mine from my book, Pinhole
“Instead of using gunpowder to make an explosive charge to suddenly and forcefully propel a bullet, a gauss pistol uses a string of electromagnets coiled along the barrel. As each magnet in the coil charges, it silently pushes the bullet along, turning it, and adding velocity. When the bullet passes the last magnet in the coil and leaves the barrel, it has achieved approximately the same speed and spin as a bullet from a traditional, gunpowder-based gun, but without the noise and the smoke.”
I have no idea if any of that would work in real life.  I just had an idea in my head and threw in the words electromagnets, coil, and gauss to make it sound reasonable.

Turns out I'm not the only one who uses technobabble to make myself sound reasonable.  We have movies (masquerading as documentaries) that use it to convince audiences of their spiritual views.  We have television personalities who use it to sell snake oil.
And we have the antivaxxers.  Here's a quote from a very-well written antivax site:
"They [babies] also are born with their immune systems in a “special” mode. If their immune systems were like normal adults or older children, then their mothers’ bodies would reject them as foreign. Their immune systems don’t come out of this special mode until at least 6 months, and some think not until 2 years (and every illness or vaccination overwhelms the immune system because it is unable to react properly, which delays this switch to normal functioning, and can eventually prevent it, leaving the child immuno-compromised).  What all of this means is that anything that is injected into a small child can pass the blood-brain barrier and can potentially cause neurological damage."
Compare that to Star Trek's:
"A few months ago I was running a neural scan and noticed some anomalous protein readings. I thought there must be some mistake, so I ran an amino acid sequence to be sure. But there it was again, the prion mutation rate had spiked. I couldn't believe it. It meant the anomalous proteins had to have a strong quantum resonance."
What's the difference between these two examples?  Well, one is complete bullshit and the other was a television show.  Also, neither of the people who said or wrote them said "Is that backed up by peer-reviewed academic journals?" or "Aren't you cherry picking data and misinterpreting facts?" or "Seriously, dude, do you hear the shit coming out of your mouth?"

And that's why measles is resurging.  When the next child in the United States dies (it killed over 15 million children in 1980, but not in the US because we were vaccinated), we can write "technobabble" as the cause of death.


*42 bonus points if you get the reference.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sherlock Deductions


Life is too short to re-watch a television show.  Well, unless it's Sherlock.



If you're not familiar with the show, it's a British drama that modernizes Conan Doyle's famous mysteries.  It's brilliantly written and popular enough to make Benedict Cumberbatch famous.  I've been re-watching episodes of Sherlock over the past few weeks.  It's good to distract myself from all the working out I do.

Before and after pictures of me.
Anyway, one of the famous bits about Sherlock Holmes (that they do brilliantly in the show) is his ability to observe people and deduce things about them.  I always liked those parts, so I tried to write one.  Here goes:



INT. SHERLOCK AND JOHN'S FLAT - DAY

               SHERLOCK, churlish, stands looking out a window at the street
               below.  WATSON sits in his chair, pretending to read the
               paper but secretly watching Sherlock.

               Finally, John can't take the tension anymore.

                                   JOHN
                         Look, is this still about the
                         scarf.

               Sherlock turns from the window, but says nothing.

                                   JOHN (CONT'D)
                         I just moved it to a different
                         hook.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         I put my scarf there every night.

                                   JOHN
                         I moved it three inches to the
                         left.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         "A place for every thing and
                         everything in its place."

                                   JOHN
                         Now you're quoting American
                         ministers at me?  You must be
                         angry.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Sometimes even the Church gets
                         things right.

               Sherlock crosses the room and sits in his chair.

                                   SHERLOCK (CONT'D)
                         You're doing this one.

                                   JOHN
                         What?

                                   SHERLOCK
                         New client coming up the stairs. 
                         You're doing it this time.

                                   JOHN
                         What?  No.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         "Stop showing off, Sherlock."
                         "Nobody is impressed by your parlor
                         tricks, Sherlock."

                                   JOHN
                         Christ sake, I moved it one hook
                         over.

               There's a knock at the door.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Come in.

               Chris, wrapped in a thick coat, hat, and gloves enters.  He
               has a raspy, but high voice.

                                   CHRIS
                         Mr. Holmes?  (He nods.)  I'm Chris
                         Shenwick. I was wondering if you
                         could help me.  I have...  I have a
                         problem.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Do sit down.

               Chris opens his coat, revealing a large chest, but slight
               frame.

                                   SHERLOCK (CONT'D)
                         No, stop.  Don't remove your gloves
                         or hat just yet.  Please sit down
                         and let my colleague Dr. Watson
                         deduce what he can about you.

                                   JOHN
                         Sherlock!

               Chris smiles.

                                   CHRIS
                         Oh, I've heard about this.  You're
                         famous for figuring things out
                         about a person by the way they sit
                         and the like.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Yes, only I'm training my assistant
                         in it.  It's much like the animal
                         trainer at a circus would teach a
                         poodle to juggle, only instead of
                         doggie treats I reward John by
                         doing the washing up.

                                   JOHN
                         You never do the washing up.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Which gives you some idea of how
                         well it's going.

               John crosses his arms, angrily.

                                   CHRIS
                         Oh, come on, please.  I was looking
                         forward to it.

               Sherlock waits.  John gives in.

                                   JOHN
                             (whispering to Sherlock as
                              he gets up)
                         You could have just moved it back!

               John walks over to Chris.  He leans forward, examining his
               face closely, inhaling deeply.  He steps back and tilts his
               head from side to side, looking at him one way and then
               another.  Finally he backs up and sits down next to Sherlock.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Well?  What do you observe?

                                   JOHN
                         Chris is pale, has very little
                         facial hair apart from a wispy
                         moustache, and walks with a wide
                         gait.  His chest is unusually
                         large, while the rest of him is
                         slim.  He smells of whiskey, which
                         covers the faint aroma of perfume,
                         a woman's perfume. 

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Good, good.  So, what can you
                         deduce?

                                   JOHN
                         Chris hit puberty late.  I'm
                         guessing he's around 15. Judging
                         from the wideness of his stance,
                         and how much he works out his
                         chest, I'm guessing-

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Deducing.

                                   JOHN
                         Deducing he's trying to act older,
                         more masculine.  It obviously
                         works, as he was able to buy
                         whiskey and, judging from the
                         perfume, gain the attentions of a
                         lady.

               Chris's eyes are wide with shock.  Sherlock smiles thinly.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         That's good.  Very good.  However,
                         you completely missed the razor.

                                   JOHN
                         Razor?  (to Chris) You've got a
                         knife?

                                   SHERLOCK
                         No, Occam's Razor.  It's a
                         theoretical concept.  In lay terms,
                         it means "the simplest answer is
                         usually correct."

                                   JOHN
                         I don't-

                                   SHERLOCK
                         Woman's perfume. Slightly wider
                         hips.  No facial hair.  Miss
                         Shenwick, would you mind removing
                         your hat?

                                   JOHN
                         Miss?

               Chris removes her hat, revealing a cascade of long, brown
               hair.

                                   JOHN (CONT'D)
                         Oh.  Oh my God.  I am so... So
                         sorry.

               Chris touches her upper lip self-consciously.

                                   CHRIS
                         I didn't get around to waxing this
                         week.

                                   SHERLOCK
                         And that is why our dishes are so
                         sparkly clean.

                                   JOHN
                         Chris.  Short for Christine.

                                   CHRIS
                             (slightly pleased)
                         You really think I'm slim with a
                         big chest?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Future Is Now

As we all know, in the movie Back to the Future (Part 2), the main characters travel to the future to...

Uh... 

I dunno.  Something about Lea Thompson getting breast implants.  The last two movies were weak on plot.
Anyway, the interwebs are all aflutter with talk of what BttF2 (there's an embarrassing acronym) got wrong.  No, we don't have flying cars, holograms, or electronic Ronald Reagans serving drinks at bars.  Don't give up hope, though, we do have some pretty amazing things:

We have a permanent space station.

No, not that cool one.  This one that looks like something you'd use to till your garden.

We're experimenting with warp drive.

Although, it's based on the theory there's something called "exotic matter" which we haven't discovered or proven to exist yet.  Also, it's called the Alcubierre drive, so people will be flying around at 3 Alcubes instead of Warp Factor 3.
I'm brilliant, but have a lame name.
Yeah, not nearly as cool.  If anyone has Mr. Alcubierre's phone number, can you call and ask him to change his last name to Warp?  Thanks.

There's 3d printers and games that watch you move instead of using controllers and ubiquitous pornography and internets and cell phones.  Those aren't all that surprising.  You go back in time to the 1950s and tell them you can ask a question into your phone and get an answer back and they'll shrug and point at a library.

No if you really want to blow their minds, tell them about milk and eggs.  Yeah, go back and read that again.  Milk and eggs.

Dig this: we can store milk at room temperature for weeks and still drink it safely.  I know, right?!  Sounds crazy.  However, there are these things called tetra packs.  They're just pasteurized milk in a cardboard box, but they're still safe to drink.
Still creepy if you think about the animal it came from, though.
There's something even crazier: pasteurized shell eggs.  Yeah, the name is a little strange.  For a while, I was confused.  Are they pasteurized inside the shell?  Are the shells pasteurized but not the rest of them?  Are they eggs in pasteurized bullets?

It seems there's this one company that takes eggs, puts them in a warm water bath to kill off the salmonella and BAM!  Eggs that last 67 days in the refrigerator and you can eat raw.
Mmmm!  Albumen.

Remember when you could make a cake or cookies and lick the beaters?  You can do that again!  Without vomiting and being admitted to a hospital!*

Take that Star Trek!
Maybe the yellow cubes are raw yolk.

If you went back in time to the 1950s and tell them we can drink warm milk and eat raw eggs they'd...  Well, they'd probably take a long drag on their cigarettes on their asbestos cigarette holders and say "We do that all the time."

Never mind.

* Unfortunately, PSE's (a better acronym than BttF2) aren't available everywhere and the company's website is out of date, but if you call them they're more than happy to point you to a nearby store that sells them.  And they'll send you coupons.  They're nice guys.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Science Fiction is D&D

Something always bothered me about science fiction shows and movies.
  • No, not the fact that they only became popular after special effects improved
  • No, not because they became stupid, testosterone-fests after they became popular
  • No, not because they've lost their imaginative, hopeful, roots.
  • No, not because...
Well, yes, okay, all of those.  This week, however, I want to talk about how all the races are D&D character classes.

This might take a moment.  Bear with me.
Or, you know, bare with me.  That works, too.
Dungeons and Dragons has five basic types of characters:
  • Fighters  Big guys who like to fight. 
  • Magic UsersMagic guys who like to magic.
  • ThievesSneaky guys who steal things.
  • ClericsHoly/healy guys who help.
What I noticed after years of watching science fiction shows and movies that the alien/magical races all tended to fall into those classes.  Every show has a tough, warlike race; a mystical race with godlike powers, an underhanded sneaky race, and a peaceful/holy race devoted to others.

Below is a chart I made to illustrate my point.  I'm including Lord of the Rings because it inspired DnD, so you could make the argument everything is copying it.  I'm not making that argument, but if you want to, I Can Write Funny is here.


Fighter
Magic User
Thief
Cleric
LoTR
Dwarf
Wizard
Hobbit
Elf
Star Wars
Wookie
Jedi
Ewok
Droid
Star Trek
Klingon
Q
Ferengi
Vulcan
Babylon 5
Narn
Vorlon
Drazi
Minbari
Farscape
Luxan
Delvian
Nebari
Banik

Dear science fiction television and film makers: come up with something new.  That is all.