Monday, December 25, 2017

Helpful Group Names

If you've always been confused about group names ("Is it a manslaughter of crows? A homicide? A Dexter?") I've compiled a helpful list:
  • A murder of crows
  • A pride of lions
  • A herd of bison
  • A parliament of owls
  • A forge of dragons
  • A minyan of Jews
  • A closet of evangelicals
  • An alarm of police
  • An envy of groupies
  • A tax of economists
  • A magma of geologists
  • A spill of chemists
  • An abuse of teachers
  • An overdose of psychiatrists
  • A bakery of French
  • An invasion of Germans
  • A disappointment of Democrats
  • An embarrassment of Republicans
  • An American of idiots

Sunday, December 24, 2017


(From an unpublished superhero novel)

Huldra's features are classically elven. Her cheekbones more pronounced. Her ears pointed. Her hair long and green and tasseled like grass.

"Do you understand why I want you to help me blow up a nuclear reactor?" she says, her blue - grey eyes stern.

Because you're a raving psychopath? I think, but can't say. Instead, I try "It's not my place to ask. Mister Know says I must do one service for you, so that's what I'm doing."

Her jaw clenches in an almost human way. "My people aren't evil."

"You're not good," I say before I can stop myself.

"Exactly," she says, smiling. "We preserve the balance."

"The balance between good and evil?"

She sighs, impatiently. "No, the balance between our universes. We come from an inverse dimension."

"A what?" It's okay if she thinks I'm an idiot. I was told to gain her trust, not her respect.

Huldra hurries over to her desk. While her back is turned, I open the capsule and sprinkle the powder into her drink. I manage to swirl it with my pinky once without her noticing. She comes back with a pad of plain, white paper and a black crayon. She opens the pad to the first page and draws a line, topped with an arrow.

"This is your universe. All the plants and animals. All the buildings and people. All the stars in the heavens."

She draws another line just like it, the arrow going in the same direction.

"This is a parallel universe. It's just like yours, but with one or two differences."


"It could be anything. Robots instead of humans. Two moons instead of one. A forest in the wrong place."

She draws two more lines, making a cross.

"These are perpendicular dimensions. Nothing is the same save for one or two small similarities. The Earth is a blob of plasma, but is roughly the same shape and size. Or it's a barren rock, but still has all the same mountains in the same places."

She draws two more lines, the arrows pointing in opposite directions.

"This is your dimension and mine. We're inverse to each other. One element in your universe is linked to ours, but opposite. You increase that element in your universe, it decreases in ours. And vice versa."

"So," I say, "if we were linked with water, and we drained all our lakes..."

"We'd flood. Or if we were inverse linked with heat, as your planet entered an ice age, we'd have a hothouse age."

I try to look like I understand. "So what's our element? What are we reverse in?"

"Population. For every person who is born here, one dies on my world. Every plague here begets a new generation there."

"So, you come to our world and kill a bunch of people to make your population grow?"

She shakes her head. "You're not listening. I said we seek balance. Your ancestors knew that. Yes, sometimes we'd murder a family or burn down a village. But mostly we came to help. We cured diseases. We fed the hungry. And we did so knowing we were killing our own."

"You deliberately killed your own people?" I say, not bothering to hide my incredulous expression.

She nods. "Every time we cured a plague here, one broke out among our people. Every time we rescued a sailor here, someone back home would drown. We could have been selfish. We could have let you go extinct so our population would soar. But your people have a value. You deserve to live, too."

"And so you want me to help you destroy a nuclear reactor so your population will rise."

She nods again. "Your people have made phenomenal strides in medical technology. You've doubled your lifespans and nearly eliminated infertility. Your population swelled into the billions.

"The few children in my world who are born alive have little chance of growing to adulthood. The few thousands that do live in the empty shells of great cities.

"Do you understand why you have to help me do this thing?  Something must be done to preserve the balance, to save my world. It's horrible, but it must be done!"

"I understand," I said, and the tension left her body.

"Good. Great! It's important that you understand that... That I'm not a monster. That I'm just doing what I have to."

I nodded. I knew exactly what she meant by doing what you have to, no matter how horrible it was.

Relieved, Huldra took a deep swallow of her drink, grimacing slightly at the taste of the powder I'd mixed in it. I hadn't been told what it was when I was ordered to give it to her. Now I knew.

It was a disease: a weaponized smallpox or tuberculosis or something else horrible. It was something to stop Huldra and her people from killing anyone else. It was something to push them into extinction.

Our world was about to have a huge, final jump in population. And somewhere out there, another world was about to die.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

O'Hara Opening Credits

               INT. BURBANK STUDIO - 1986

               It's 1986. Several men and an uncomfortable woman sit around
               a table. A TV EXECUTIVE enters.

                                   TV EXEC
                         Hi all. Thanks for coming.

                                   SLEAZY GUY
                         No, thank you.


                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         Is this the PTA meeting? I was
                         supposed to meet with some parents.

               TV Executive pins a picture of Pat Morita to the wall.

                                   TV EXEC
                         We've got a show in the works
                         called O'Hara. It's a police
                         procedural, but get this: the main
                         character is Chinese.

                                   SLEAZY GUY
                         Wow! What a great concept!

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         Morita is Japanese.

                                   TV EXEC
                         So what we need now is a killer
                         opening credits scene. Something to
                         drive home that he's a cop and he's

                         How about some of that Chinese-y
                         music with the big twonging noises.
                         And a profile of his face swooshing

                                   SLEAZY GUY
                         Nobody will believe he's a Chinese
                         cop. Let's have him do something
                         really Chinese first. Like, replace
                         a flower. The Chinese like flowers,

               Everyone looks at TOKEN ASIAN.

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         Yes, we like flowers. We're also
                         police officers.

                         Excellent point. Let's have him
                         next to a helicopter. Cops do that.

                                   TV EXEC
                         But let's not have him look too
                         serious. Have him eating a bowl of
                         rice in the next shot.

                                   SLEAZY GUY

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         You do realize we don't all eat
                         rice, right?

                         How about a burrito?

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         Can't he just be a normal guy? The
                         fact he's Asian doesn't mean he has
                         to prove it all the time. He
                         doesn't have to run around waving
                         samurai swords-

                                   TV EXEC
                         Oh! Yeah! Put the sword in there! 

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         For fuck's sake.

                         We're going to give him some sassy
                         white folks to work with. We should
                         show them.

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         One Asian guy and the rest are

                                   TV EXEC
                         You're right. Throw in a black guy.
                         NO! A black woman!

                                   SLEAZY GUY
                         You're so daring!

                         Big SWOOSH of Morita's head flying
                         by and BAM! Swords. Costars. Black
                         woman. Baseball.

                                   SLEAZY GUY
                         Yeah! Baseball... Wait, what?

                                   TV EXEC
                         Don't Chinese people like baseball?

               TOKEN ASIAN stands, furious.

                                   TOKEN ASIAN
                         This is the dumbest thing I've ever
                         heard of. If you start a show like
                         that, nobody will watch it. You'll
                         never get a second season with an
                         opening that stupid.

               She storms off. 


                                   TV EXEC
                         We need something even MORE... You
                         know... More.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Big Pharma Ripped Me Off

In 2000, I left my dream job.

The stress was getting to me. On my rare evenings home with my girlfriend, I'd jump up for no reason, thinking there was something urgent I had to do. I had panic attacks whenever I thought about work.

The panic attacks that led me to worry about my heart. In my mid-20s, I'd had "funny heartbeats." Sometimes I felt it beat harder than it should. My doctor, eager to try out his new EKG machine, shaved my chest and attached electrodes.

Nothing. "Sometimes hearts just beat funny when you're in your twenties."

I used to pick the doctors closest to my home or work. Sometimes I got quacks. Smokers. Women with trembling hands. Men with dubious degrees.

With the new stress, I worried about my heart again. My employer-paid insurance would run out at the end of the month, and I couldn't afford COBRA. I found a new doctor and explained my heart problems.

Another EKG. More chest shaving. More electrodes. This time they found an arrhythmia.

Lucky for me, it could be treated by a new medication called Toprolzine. Unlucky for me, the medication was brand new and very expensive. The doctor hadn't prescribed it before, so she wanted me to visit her every week to check for side effects.

On my third visit, my doctor entered the exam room with a grave look on her face.

"I'm going to take you off the Toprolzine. There are some other medications we can try."

I was confused. It worked great. The freaky heartbeats ended. There were no side effects.

"There were some irregularities found with the research. We don't prescribe it anymore."

She was reluctant to explain. I pushed. Finally, she admitted the pharmaceutical company had fudged the data in the clinical trials. Toprolzine was snake oil: little more than an overpriced sugar pill.

I lost it. I don't usually yell at doctors, but I totally lost it on her. She'd given me false hope with a goddamned placebo.

"I'm very sorry. These things happen."

Yeah, but what about the money I'd spent? My copay was incredibly high. Would the hospital give that back?

"That's not our policy."

I threatened to sue.

"You're welcome to do so, but as there were no side effects-"

I cut her off (also something I don't usually do). Who cares if there were no side effects? My insurance coverage was almost done. What about all the time I lost I could have spent finding something that worked?

"That's what happens when you take homeopathic medicine."

I stopped. I sputtered. What did she mean? Doctors don't prescribe homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines are just worthless, overpriced placebos.

"Exactly. That's why real doctors don't prescribe them."

Then I remembered that this was a blog, and I was making a point.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fuck You, City of Mountain View

I live in (perhaps) the most expensive area in the world.

Literally. Studio apartments rent for $1000 a month. Houses for around $5000.

I've often joked we could sell our house and buy a European castle.

Literally. And our house isn't all that big. We searched for days to find a tub small enough to fit in our bathroom (the old one had holes).

Even Google employees with large bonuses and stock packages can't afford to live here. They end up driving for hours to get to and from work.

As you can guess, being poor here sucks. Sure, the jobs pay better, but it doesn't nearly make up for the costs.

As you can guess, there are a lot of homeless. We have streets lined with campers:

The campers are a step better than the homeless tent cities in other towns. They're more secure from the heat. They have doors you can lock to protect your valuables. Bathrooms. Kitchens.

Some are cool. Once, I saw a home built from a 1950s Buick pickup, wooden siding, and old windows. As I stared, one of the windows opened and someone put out a tiny herb plant to get some sun.

A friend sent me this video of the home:

Sometimes I try to imagine where these people came from. I try to imagine what they go through every day. It helps me remember an important fact:

These are people.

These are people with jobs.

These are people with jobs who still can't afford to rent a home.

So, of course, the City of Mountain View decided to hurt them. They put up these signs.

If you can't read it, it says "Fuck poor people."
I know what you're thinking. Maybe the vans were a hazard to traffic!
Bullshit. It's a barely-traveled street. Now it's lined with minivans instead of camper vans, which take up the same amount of space.

Maybe they were ruining the view for nearby homes.
Bullshit. The view is already blocked by these trees.

Maybe the City of Mountain View decided to fuck over those who have the least in our society.

Fuck you, City of Mountain View.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Five Colors in Five Minutes

Ever since I started doing funny colors in my hair, my hairdresser (Helen) has gotten more adventurous. She convinced me to change my scheduled colors and do an opalescent silver.

Although I think it's more for her own amusement than for my beautification.

So, when she looked down at my fading highlights and told me she wanted to "add a few colors," I balked. Searching for an excuse, I said "I'm in a hurry."

Helen insisted she could do five colors in five minutes. If she couldn't do it, the visit would be free. It's hard to beat free.

Here's what happened.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shampoo Marketing Executives

Interior: Suave Men's Haircare Products - Marketing Department conference room. The room is gloomy, with generic-grey bottles stacked on every surface.

Two junior Marketing Executives (#2 and #3) sit in chairs, slouched against the table. They're miserable, waiting for their boss, worried what might be coming.

Their boss (#1) enters in a barely-controlled fury.

Marketing Executive 1: Gentlemen, we have a problem in the men's hair division.

Marketing Executive 2: Egads, no!

Marketing Executive 3: What kind of problem?

Exec 1: Our competitor, Dove, has invented a new product line to steal our consumers. They invented shampoos with an undeniable appeal to the macho male demographic.

Exec 2: Egads, no!

Exec 3: What could possibly be more macho than our line of gentle, floral hair products?

Exec 1: They've invented shampoo with caffeine!
Author's Note: No, really.

Exec 2: Egads, n- Wait, what?

Exec 3: What does caffeine add to a shampoo?

Exec 1: Helps you wake up.

Exec 2: Do you drink it?

Exec 1: Drink shampoo? Don't be silly.

[Scribbles note: Ask R&D about drinkable shampoo]

Exec 2: Then how does it wake you up?

Exec 3: Maybe it only wakes up your scalp.

Exec 1: And they have a kind with menthol.

Exec 2: Like in the cigarettes?

Exec 3: Can you get lung cancer of the scalp?

Exec 1: If we want to compete, we need new ideas.

Exec 2: Egads, no!

Exec 3: Let me just type up my resignation letter.

[#3 turns to leave]

Exec 1: Don't panic, men. Think! What are macho men into?

Exec 2: Other macho men?

Exec 3: Macho women?

Exec 2: Cars!

Exec 3: Macho cars!

Exec 1: No, no. We need to appeal to their lifestyle. We need to appeal to what they think is their lifestyle!

Exec 2: You mean, living in the dirt and rolling their own cigarettes while firing cannons into the sky?

Exec 1: Exactly!

Exec 3: Not sure how you find time to wash your hair if you're living in the dirt, covered in gunpowder ash.

Exec 1:  I think you have something there.  Go on!

Exec 2: Who has time to wash and condition and style his hair every time it gets dirt on it?

Exec 1: Convenience shampoo! We'll combine shampoo and conditioner!

Exec 2: Er, we've already done that.

Exec 1: Good point. We need more convenience.

Exec 3: What's more convenient than shampoo and conditioner together?

[Long pause]

Exec 2: What if we combined it with soap? Shampoo, conditioner, and "body wash." Then you could just pour the bottle over yourself and you're done.

Exec 3: Brilliant!

Exec 1: And next year, we can combine it with toothpaste! And cleaning fluid! And...

[Room explodes with creative energy, burning entire office building down.]

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Things I use my laptop for:
  • Writing
  • Video games
  • Watching videos/movies/etc.
  • Serving tray
  • Calling relatives
  • Filling out repetitive forms
  • Getting work
  • NEW: Light table

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fun With Freecycle: Greatest Landscaping Rocks God Ever Made

You know what your house needs? Lava rocks.

Everyone knows it. Your friends snicker about your rockless garden behind your back. Your neighbors worry your drab house will hurt the neighborhood's Zillow values.

You need lava rocks, but not just any rocks will do. You need the good kind. The red kind. The kind with the little holes in them.

You need rocks like this one.

These are the perfect lava rocks. These rocks can transform a broken hovel into a mansion of exceptional beauty. Look closer at it and behold its magical power.

I don't think you are appreciating the value of this rock. Maybe you can't see the inherent majesty of the red stone. Let me show it to you in black and white.

Oh, no, wait. That's a meteor.

But you get the point. You need these rocks to make your life complete. But where will you get enough of them? To make your home and garden perfect you'd need...

Well you'd need a lot. You'd need buckets full. Wheelbarrows full. A whole driveway full!

But where would you find such a treasure? Mountain View, California.

But how could you afford such a treasure? They're free.

So, what are you waiting for? This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance!

And come soon, because I'm tired of them filling up my driveway.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"The Interface Lesson" or "Wow, I Once Had Hair!"

I've written "Interface Video" on every to do list for the last decade.

About ten years ago, DeVry University told all its teachers to throw away their syllabi. From that point on, we were to teach exactly what every other DeVry teacher was teaching on the exact same days using the exact same books and materials.

It felt like I was going to give my students a substandard education, so I moved the courses I wasn't allowed to teach online. I recorded videos of myself my students could watch during their free time.

Eventually, DeVry relented and I went back to lecturing in person. My last video was left unedited and unpublished.

Until now.

Now I just have to finish all my other, long-term to-do items: reprogram my Commodore 64, iron my Member's Only jacket, and visit the top of the World Trade Center.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Definition of Evil

I gave this talk on writing evil into your games at the Silicon Valley IGDA talk at Google early last week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Your Literary Opinion

I've been working on my current novel (novels, as it turns out) for five years and have been struggling with the beginning for most of that.  The main character (one of two main characters, as it turns out) is a tour guide and, as he takes us on a tour of a local, historical site, he explains the world.

The problem is the opening.  The first few paragraphs (minus the prologue, as it turns out) set the tone of the book.  And I can't quite figure out how to start things.

So, I want your opinion.  I have two nearly-similar openings, below.  Which is more compelling?  Which would make you want to read on more?


Version 1
Before he even saw the bus, he could hear there was something wrong with it. Something was off about the growl as it dug its wheels into the road, climbing up the hill where he waited for it.
He swore under his breath. Gemalli was a great driver, but a poor mechanic. More often than not, he caused more problems than he fixed. He couldn't afford to hire anyone else, not this season, so if something was broken or out of alignment, he'd have to rely on Gem to fix it.
Oily smoke wafted past him, and he turned away from the road. He wanted to appear casual when his customers saw him for the first time through his windows. He stared down at First City, watching the rising sun paint the city's squat, stone buildings red, then gold. Their windows, carefully angled to catch the morning, flashed at him. Finally, the bus came into view: a solid rectangle of glass and wheels, engine and lights.
He couldn't help but smile like an idiot. He'd worked for years to save up enough for his own luxury tour bus. It was the biggest status symbol he could imagine. It was a sign he had succeeded in business and in life.

The doors hissed open, and he paused a moment to look at its side. There were a dozen reasons he boarded so far outside the city, so far from where Gemalli, picked up his customers. It helped bolster his claim to the city fathers that his company was immune to First City taxes. It was more dramatic when he climbed in, focusing his customer's attention on him when he needed it most. However, the real reason was that he loved looking at his name painted in red and gold as it crested the hill in the morning light.

Version 2
He stood waiting on a hill just outside First City, with his back to the rising sun.  The newborn light painted the city's squat, stone buildings red, then gold.  Their windows, carefully arranged to catch the morning, flashed painful light at him for a few minutes, then the sun moved on and a different set flashed, then another.
His shadow faded in, long and faint, then shrank and darkened.  His skin prickled with new sweat, and he unzipped his jacket.  Animals muttered in the forest, having as much trouble waking as their human counterparts.
For half an hour, he waited -- breathing in the cool air and the quiet solitude -- before he heard an engine in the distance. It growled like a monster as it neared, ending the tranquility of the hilltop, and scattering the sleeping birds into panicked flight.  Oily smoke wafted past him.  Finally, a bus came into view: a solid rectangle of glass and wheels, engine and lights.
He couldn't help but smile like an idiot.  He'd worked for years to save up enough for his own luxury tour bus.  It was the biggest status symbol he could imagine.  It was a sign he had succeeded in business and in life.

The doors hissed open, and he paused a moment to smile at his name painted on the side of the bus.  There were a dozen reasons he boarded the bus so far outside the city, so far from where his driver, Gemalli, picked up his customers.  It helped bolster his claim that his company was immune to First City taxes.  It was more dramatic if he climbed into the bus later, focusing his customer's attention on him when he needed it most.  However, the real reason was that he loved looking at his name painted in red and gold on the bus's side.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

If I Could Design Fonts

I was doodling and playing with letters. While writing "Hi," I noticed my lowercase i seemed to be pointing accusingly at H.  What had H done that so infuriated i?

And what happened to the Skiing group?  Someone killed off n and g.  Everyone suspects k.

After I drew Fit I decided the i wasn't accusing anyone.  It was pointing with deep admiration.  Also, F is a perv.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Instacomm

The Instacomm was an incredible invention with one incredible flaw.  While it allowed you to communicate with anyone anywhere in the universe, it also allowed you to talk to anyone anywhen in the universe.  It even let you talk to anyone in any alternate universe.

Many people found the complicated device frustrating.  If your Instacomm wasn't tuned with complete precision -- if you pushed one wrong button, if you mistyped one character -- your call could go disastrously wrong. For example, you might call your brother to ask him over to your house for dinner with you and your wife, only to realize an hour later that:

a) You were talking to your brother from six hours in the future, and he'd already had dinner and gone to bed.
b) You were talking to your brother from six years ago, and he was still dating the woman who became your wife.
c) You were talking to your brother in another dimension where he was a semi-intelligent tree creature and couldn't figure out how to pull his roots up to get to your house in the first place.

After a while, people ditched their Instacomms and went back to mailing each other letters.  The post office became a booming business nearly overnight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Fortune Cookie Career

Chinese fortune cookies suck.  They're not really cookies (more like folded paste), don't really tell your fortune ("People respect your forthrightness" my ass), and aren't really from China (seems Japanese immigrants in California invented them). 

The point is, the fortunes suck.  The point is, anyone with a pen, hundreds of slips of paper, and the key to a factory in San Francisco with numerous health code violations can write their own.  The point is, here's what I came up with: 

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who command respect and those who demand respect.  Those who command respect don’t need it.  Those who demand respect don’t deserve it.

The present is a flickering instant between anticipation and regret.  Don’t waste it.

If you state your religion and are ridiculed, that’s bigotry.  If you state your thoughts and are ridiculed, that’s life.

If you can’t defeat your enemy, join him and pervert his cause.

How can anyone be bored when so many things are crying out to be made?

Acting on imperfect knowledge is disastrous.  All human knowledge is imperfect.  Therefore, it's always best to do nothing.

Now, on to writing the instructions on chop sticks...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fun With Freecycle: Aromatherapy Couch

This is my couch.  It's a three-piece sectional from Crate & Barrel that measures 8.5' x 3.5'.  There's some fraying from cat love, but it's a lovely maroon and fits comfortably in any corner.  It goes nicely with the carpet, don't you think?*


The most important thing about this couch is: I've spent the last ten years carefully turning it into an aromatherapy device.

If you're unfamiliar with aromatherapy, it's a... Uh... Therapy.  Wikipedia says aromatherapy can improve general "well-being."  Well, being a guy trying to give away a couch before the new one arrives in a couple days, I completely agree. 

When you sit on this couch, your well-being will be improved.  When you take it away, my well-being will be improved.  So, win-win.

You may ask what aromas I infused.  I've eschewed the traditional lemongrass, lavender, and other boring herbal essential oils.  I have infused it with the essential oils of sexy musk.

That's right, it smells like me.  I've slept on that couch dozens of times, sometimes on hot nights, sometimes naked.  I've sat on that couch for countless hours after bean-heavy meals.  It was difficult work, but now this couch will make you as hale and hearty as me: an atrophied, middle-aged white guy with irritable bowels and a propensity to sweat.

Let me know soon.  I'm expecting a lot of offers.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cover Letter Rough Draft

Hey, honey.  You wanted me to get a job; well here's the cover letter I sent out!  Hope you like it.

Dear Miserable Bastard:

That's right, I called you a miserable bastard.  You know why?  Of course you do.
I mean, look at you.  Look at your company!

You really need my help, but I'm happy to give it, for an exorbitant fee.

I will be your guiding light.  I will be your prime mover.  I will be the architect of your future.

I will take the pile of seething muck that is your company and turn it into a hard, glistening tower of triumph.  Does that sound sexual? It's meant to be.  When I'm done with this company, you'll get offers for mergers, you'll get requests to be acquired, CEOs will throw themselves at your feet and beg to be broken up and sold off at your rough hands.  In short, every company will want to be f--ked by you.

Your workforce will transform.  Yes, there will have to be some "downsizing."  You have too many losers working for you.  I've already got some criteria of whom to fire.  Anyone taller than me will have to go; they creep me out.  Who else?  Men with beards.  Women with tattoos.  Anyone who rides a motorcycle.  People who hum.  Get rid of all of them.

In the end, your smaller, leaner, more perfect-er employees will set the business world on fire.  Like, literally.  We should start fire drills on my first day.

I expect your offer letter by tomorrow at the latest.  Better hurry!


Your Best Hope Esq.

Ha ha! I'd never make that public.  Please delete it and never show it to anyone!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Turning Over: Robert Heinlein

I used to do a regular piece called Turning Over in Their Graves (TOTG) where I wrote about authors whose works were adapted into things they would have horrified them.  I've done Will Smith's "I, Robot" and the musical "Annie."  Then I stopped, because seeing these perversions of the authors' true intent was depressing me.

Then I read Starship Troopers.

I saw the movie "Starship Troopers" when it came out in the 90s and, like everyone else, I enjoyed the action, the special effects, and the naked shower scene.
I only included this picture to get more visitors to my blog.
Funny side note: some parents brought their 4 year-old kid to see it.  I sat a few rows away while she saw a man bitten in half by a giant spider, the aforementioned nude shower scene, a soldier get his arm burned off, and a pilot get his brains sucked out by a slug monster.

Note to parents: This might not a good movie for kids.
The point is, having seen "Starship Troopers," I felt I had a good sense of what Starship Troopers was like.
They both have troopers...
Well, they're both about a guy named Johnny Rico who fights bugs in space.  And.... That's about the end of the similarities.
Starship Troopers has three chapters with action and science fiction in them.  Much of the rest is about Rico becoming a soldier and learning how the military works.
"Starship Troopers" is an action film about soldiers who fight bugs that fart energy at starships.
The romantic subplot in Starship Troopers is about how a pilot named Carmen takes Johnny out to dinner.  She kisses him, and he's happy.
In "Starship Troopers" Carmen dumps Johnny to focus on her career, so he sleeps with Dizzy who dies happily because she got to "have" him.
Starship Troopers has a lot of discussion about "moral philosophy."  In one scene, a recruit asks why they need to train with knives when anyone with a finger can launch a nuke.  The question is followed by a long discussion about the use of restrained force in the military.
"Starship Troopers" has this...
Starship Troopers discusses the need for beating your children hard and often, why only soldiers should be allowed to vote or hold public office, and how genocide is good for everyone.
"Starship Troopers" points out the book's fascism.  Soldiers cheer at the torture of an enemy.  Some scenes are shot-by-shot mirrors of Nazi propaganda films.  Officers wear uniforms reminiscent of ones worn by SS officers.
If you squint, you can tell if this is a scene from "Starship Troopers" or "Patton."
In short, "Starship Troopers" satirizes Starship Troopers.  It holds the book up and says "Hey, this is fascism!"

I'm sure Heinlein would be displeased at this perversion of his work.  Then again, the book deserves it.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Myth Adventures, the Movie

Myth Adventures are comedic fantasy novels created by Robert Asprin.  They're clever, funny, and were extremely popular for several decades.  The fact that nobody has made a film out of them continues to blow my mind.

Update: I just emailed to see if I could get the rights.  Someone got there before me.

Here's the premise: Skeeve is an amateur magician apprenticed to a powerless demon.  They set out to save the world (and make a quick buck) along with a beautiful, green-haired, troll assassin; a handsome but painfully ignorant demon hunter; and Skeeve's immature pet dragon.  Along the way, they visit bizarre, bazaar worlds; swindle Imps and Deveeels; get executed; and confront serious evil (or, at least, total nuttiness).

How can Hollywood resist?

Update: Perhaps they won't now.

There's already been dozens of books and comic books, and games.  However, the part of the original book that grabs me the most comes in the first chapter and tends to get left out of the adaptations: Skeeve learning magik.  My hope is that, when someone inevitably makes a movie or tv show, they keep it in.

Just to show how it could be done, I've written it up in screenplay format.

               EXT. SMALL CLEARING - NIGHT

               The woods surround a ROUGH HUT with a single window.  Inside,
               lit by a few candles on tall candlesticks, SKEEVE the
               apprentice (a scrawny, eager-faced boy) is waving his arms
               about frantically.

               INT. ROUGH HUT - DAY

               SKEEVE is still waving his arms, while being watched by
               GARKIN (a tall man with a salt and pepper beard and rich
               clothes), who is eating the leg of a roast animal, a cross
               between a turkey and a lizard.

               Skeeve directs his motions at a single, white feather, which
               floats through the air following his gestures.  The effort of
               moving the feather is taking quite a toll on him; he's
               sweating and red-faced.

               He brings the feather to rest on the pages of an ancient book
               sitting on a table.  With a sigh of relief, he claps his
               hands together and the book snaps shut on the feather like a

               Skeeve turns to Garkin, hoping for approval.

                         A trifle showy, but effective. 
                         That's the first time you've
                         managed to get the feather into the

                         I've been practicing.

                             (raising an eyebrow)
                         Have you?

               He stands and extends the animal leg.  Skeeve reaches out to
               take it, but Garkin puts the leg down with the rest of the

               He walks past Skeeve and picks up one of the candles.  He
               blows it out and places it in front of Skeeve.

                                   GARKIN (CONT'D)
                         Let's see you light the candle,

               Skeeve sighs sadly.

                         Garkin, it occurs to me I could
                         concentrate better on a full

                         Skeeve, it occurs to me you're

               Skeeve stares forlornly at the unlit candle.  Garkin paces
               around him and the candle in a circle.

                         It's just that I've never been able

                         Negative thought.  Stop it.

               Skeeve takes a deep breath and concentrates.

                         I will light the candle this time. 
                         I will light it because there is no
                         reason I shouldn't.

               A sepia-toned image appears of a strong man proudly pushing a

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         My father has a farmer's bond with 
                         the land.  Like him, I tap the 
                         strength of the earth.

               The image turns to a beautiful woman reading a book.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         My mother was an educated woman. 
                         The knowledge she gave me is like a
                         lens, letting me focus.

               Now Garkin appears, taller and more handsome than the real

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         My teacher is a master magician. 
                         His wisdom directs my efforts. I will 
                         light this candle.

               The candle remains unlit.  Skeeve is sweating, clenched.

                         Don't tense.  Don't try to force
                         it.  Let the energies pass freely.

               Skeeve takes a deep breath again and relaxes.  He reaches a
               finger out then drops it.

                         I can't do it.

                         Negative thought.  Stop it.

                         I will light the candle.  My

                             (slapping him on the back
                              of the head)
                         No!  Negative thought.  Don't rely
                         on others for your strength.

                             (fed up)
                         I will light the candle because I
                         am Skeeve.

               Embers of light appear underneath his skin and crawl randomly
               over him like ants on a hill.  His voice echoes slightly.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         I am Skeeve.  I am stronger than
                         any of them.

               The image of his father reappears, this time in muted colors. 
               Now his father is whipping a Skeeve who is pushing a plow. 
               Skeeve decks him and runs away.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         My father tried to chain me to a

               The image of the mother reappears, now severe, ugly, cold. 
               She's raps Skeeve's knuckles, then clutches at her chest and

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         My mother died a heartless monster.

               Garkin appears, talking to Skeeve, who looks past him at a
               golden statue on a table.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         Garkin is a gullible fool who took
                         a thief for an apprentice.  I have
                         beaten them all.

               The images disappear.  Now it's just Skeeve and the candle. 
               Skeeve points at the candle again and the embers of light
               flow down his arm.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         I am Skeeve.  I will light the

               He drops his hand.

                                   SKEEVE (CONT'D)
                         It doesn't even matter if I light
                         this candle.  I am Skeeve.  I am

               The candle ignites.  Then it flickers and goes out.  Garkin,
               standing behind him, grabs Skeeve's shoulders with

                         Excellent, lad!

               Then all emotion drains from his face.  He punches Skeeve
               hard in the ear, knocking him from his chair.

                             (clutching his ear)
                         What was that for?

                         I thought so!  You still want to be
                         a thief.  You want to use my magiks
                         to steal!
That only took me a few minutes to write.  I could probably crank out a screenplay in a week or two. Hey, Hollywood!  Call me! 
Update: Hollywood isn't going to call me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Totality Worth It. Totality Wicked.

I don't do wonder.

I am unmoved by scenic vistas, majestic forests, and crashing oceans.  I have stood on the prows of mighty ships and viewed towering, blue glaciers with an emotion that could best be described as "meh."

In short, I'm uninterested in natural beauties.
Well, okay...
You may wonder why I flew to Boise Idaho, took the kids out of school (one, kicking and screaming) for a day and a half, and sat in a school parking lot, staring at the sky with wacky glasses, waiting for a total eclipse that lasted one minute and ten seconds.  You may wonder why I spent days in a city where the most interesting thing to do is stare at this house as we drove by.

Why? Because I wouldn't have another chance for decades.  I did it because, like having kids, if you don't you'll always wonder "Did I miss something?"

So, how did I feel about spending hundreds of dollars an upending my life for an event that lasted a brief moment?

To say it was better than expected would be an understatement.  I expected it to look like:

I played a lot of Terraria.

In the end, it looked more like:
Note to self: play Majora's Mask
Final verdict: totally worth it.

Also, if you're in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, there's a store next to a Chevron gas station that makes an amazing huckleberry pie you can eat while staring at the sky.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Back to School 2017

Summer vacation is ending around the country.  It's a difficult, emotional time.  Children are panicking that their long vacation time is over.  Parents are experiencing a swell of unexpected feelings as well.

In a week (or a couple weeks, if your kids are in public school) your children will be gone all day, every day.  Your house will echo with emptiness.

Perhaps you're wondering how to fill this void in your life.  I have some suggestions:
  • Shout with joy
  • Throw a "first day of school party" for your friends
  • Call your school and suggest your kids have regular, after school detention
  • Laugh nonstop for 3-6 hours
  • Plan summer camps for 2018
  • Hide all your kids' favorite toys and leave ransom notes in their rooms
  • Eat all the desserts in the house
  • Send money to your local teachers' union
  • Contact colleges in other countries and ask about pre-paying tuition
  • Get drunk
  • Watch this video over and over again and laugh.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Merchandise Returns Nursery Rhymes

This is the product sent by Think Geek to replace the broken one
My brother bought my son for his birthday.

This is the step my son got to
Before he realized he got another defective
Product sent by Think Geek to replace the broken one
My brother bought him for his birthday.

This is the switch that does nothing
And won't switch games
On the step my son got to
Before he realized he got another defective
Product sent by Think Geek to replace the broken one
My brother bought him for his birthday.

This is the battery that gave out after 10 seconds
While my son was showing me how 
The switch does nothing
And won't switch games
On the step he got to
Before he realized he got another defective
Product sent by Think Geek to replace the broken one
My brother bought him for his birthday.

This is the face I made 
While I emailed the returns department
After the battery gave out after 10 seconds
While my son was showing me how 
The switch does nothing
And won't switch games
On the step he got to
Before he realized he got another defective
Product sent by Think Geek to replace the broken one
My brother bought him for his birthday.