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.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

First Effective Thursday of January

It's the First Thursday of January!

Well, okay, it's the second Thursday of January.  However, the first Thursday doesn't count because my kids were home from school.  And they'll be out again in a week.  And then they get a week in February.
See, this is why we need to increase funding to the Department of Education.
Ugh.

Anyway, the first effective Thursday in January is when I'm required by the eldritch laws which bind my powers to make a list of New Year's Resolutions.  Also, when the planets align, the laws require me to strip naked, paint myself blue, and run through college campuses singing Beatles songs.  Luckily, Pluto isn't a planet anymore so that won't happen often.  (Check Ticketmaster for scheduling.)

Anyway, New Year's Resolutions.  The problem with resolutions is I already have so many I'm already working on:
  • My novel A Thousand Secret Sorrows
    Which is coming along, but far slower than I had hoped.
  • My game "Kingdom of Adventure"
    Same as above.
  • The audiobook for Pinhole
    Aaaand again.  Coming even slower than the others because man my voice is annoying.
  • Teaching well
    Teaching is pretty easy as I haven't set foot in a classroom in a year (if you exclude the aforementioned running naked through campus).
  • Being a good parent
    Constant struggle.
  • Being a good husband
    Constant struggle for my wife.
  • Work out five days a week
    I've improved my body a lot, but now I have these little man boobies that I need to make into DDs.  Or maybe I could get implants.  Hmmmmm.
  • Read great literature
    There's still a lot of argument in academic circles on what the great literature is.  Jacqueline Suzanne?  Harold Robbins?
  • Play great games
    I have stacks of games to get through. Literally a whole bookshelf of them.  And now they're incompatible with my PC.
  • Watch great films
    My Netflix queue is 409 entries long.
  • Improve my art skills
    I don't think I need to remind you how bad they are.
  • Volunteer
    We should all give back to our community, especially when your wife keeps needling you to go volunteer at lunch duty at your school.
  • Have a cool birthday
    I'm running out of ideas.  Best I've got so far: learn to break a board with my hand.  Anyone want to join me at a dojo?  How about at the urgent care facility afterwards?
  • Get through my list of unfinished tasks
    Currently 5 pages long, single spaced, no carriage returns.
So, do I have room for new resolutions?  Only if they're very short.  Feel free to suggest them.  I'll put them at the bottom of my list.